Spatulosoearliest post first | most recent post first
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 Confusion©. 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.
The time travelin’ bean bandits continue to eat our beans, which is already puttin’ a pinch on our supplies. We’ve given them every chance to leave but it’s obvious they can’t take care of themselves and aren't interested in getting' away. They don’t know cattle, they don’t know how to ride, and they act like they’ve never seen a blimp like me before.
“Yes, we were all born in a nursery. @Auto Slops, @Soap Lotus, all my brother and sister blimps. What? Did you think the stork brought us?”
All they do is ask me pesky questions all day, take notes, make sketches.
"About this time travelin," I ask. "How exactly do you folks handle that? You got a ship?"
"Oh, nothing like that," says Carolinaeuphrosyne. They don't really have a leader, but she and I end up talking the most. I guess I'm gettin kind sweet on her. Or "them" as she corrects me now and then.
"See my ring?" she says. "We've each got one. It's only good for one trip back. We're to stay here, gather data, and not activate them unless we see this symbol."
She opens up her sketchbook and shows me a curious insignia.
"It's supposed to be gold, but we don't have any colored pens. It represents something called the Confusion. Have you seen it before?"
I gently swing my yaw from side to side. Carolinaeuphrosyne looks at me blankly.
"That's a no." I say.
"Hard larboard, number 14."
I execute the maneuver.
"Pitch negative 29 degrees, number 14."
I execute the maneuver.
"Now hold it, number 14."
I remain perfectly still.
I've got no idea where I am or what exactly is going on around me. My view ports have been fully blindfolded. The point of this exercise is to follow the commands immediately, exactly, and without hesitation.
As part of the training to be part of this Blueshards skunkworks project, our Blimspröchen units have been disabled... which is a little disorienting, because it removes the built-in lie detection. So it's about trust.
And I'm willing to do anything at this point to don the blue-finned stabilizers, emblazoned with the curious golden insignia.
I feel my first mission is coming soon. I'm ready.
"This sounds like some kinda slavery to me. Blimp slavery."
"Oh, no, sir, I assure you. There's no slavery here. Our blimps are merely exceedingly well disciplined. They'd be perfect for someone like you, hoping to create a small fleet on such short notice. They take commands, do whatever you say, but they're also able to make decisions on the field of battle on their own. See? It's that good ol' blimp free will we hear so much about."
I'd been putting out feelers, trying to build the kind of gang we needed to extend our reach beyond Coconutville. We needed firepower. I was enough blimp for one small island, but we needed a whole pirate fleet. So this big private security agency caught wind and flew to our little island, bringing two of their new breed to show me.
"These blimps are professionals. And designed with the most advanced aerodynamics on the market. This is Blueshards tech but with our training behind it. They're perfect soldiers, and they love what they do."
The ships floated stock-still in the air above the gardens at my estate. Silver bodied, blue finned, emblazoned with a curious golden insignia.
"What's that?" I asked.
"The curious golden insignia there, on the fins."
"Oh, that's our company logo. We're known as The Confusion."
Well those bandits weren't anticipating a flying chuckwagon I will tell you that!
The pesky varmints were mighty hungry though. Usually rustlers keep to the shadows, peeling off the herd and absconding in the dark, so it was mighty unusual to have them make a try for a chuckwagon. Turned out they'd been starving--didn't even know how to skin and cook a calf, apparently. They claim to be vegetarians, and it was the beans they were after. This was a discourse that didn't occur till I lifted off and the rest of the cowpokes surrounded them and made them lay down their weapons of course.
After we had 'em roped up and put the guns to their heads and what not, they told us quite a tale. Time travelers, they claim, from a future time, sent here back on an anth-ro-po-logical expedition, to study our history, and find out what became of the blimps.
"What became of the blimps?" I hollered. "What kind of talk is that?"
The bandits looked at each other and claimed they'd said too much, but could they have some more beans please because they hadn't eaten since the storm washed away their rations.
We're quite a ways off till the nearest sheriff, so it looks like we'll be keeping these troublesome folks around for a bit.
There's a skunkworks project here at the Blueshard Shipyards that everybody wants in on. It's hard to keep a secret around here--especially given the "greater good" aspect of all we do. I swear that the positive, ethical outlook on our work increases the camaraderie overall. There's even a distinct lack of competitiveness, since working together to a common, shared goal is so central. "LIFT UP EVERY ONE" like it has painted on the side of the main hangar.
It could also be the Blimspröchen--the language that Blueshard workers must use at all times. It's also designed to make us interact and think in ways that create positive good, and removes negative, destructive thought dynamics.
But whatever's going on in the Privacy Hangar has got us all intrigued. The workers are being shuttled on and off the yards specially, which makes sense because as soon as one of us asked them what was going on, they'd have to tell us. Because you can't lie in Blimspröchen.
I did get a peak through one of the big hangar doors when they had to quickly open them. I saw one, beautifully crafted high performance horizontal stabilizer, painted a deep royal blue, with a curious golden insignia.
All I want to know is: How can I apply for that duty!?!
It just goes to show that if you just put your mind to it and work hard, anybody can be the kingpin of a criminal empire.
Sure, this criminal empire only encompasses one, coconut palm filled island. But what better an empire than paradise?
Paradise for myself, Leroy, Burt, Scarred Lil, Jimmy the Put Up, Little Gnarls, and PJ that is. Poor Evenander the Psychic didn't make it. Never saw it coming, I'm afraid. Which may speak more to Evenander's shortcomings more than anything else.
But now we've got Coconutville in the palm of our hands. Nothing arrives or leaves the island without our say-so, and you can bet they're willing to say-so to me, when I fly out in my bulging ballonets and bandoliers and give them the heave-to. We pocket our share to offer our protection, and the citizens of Coconutville are the better for it. We run every racket, from fast food to insurance, banking to pharmaceuticals. We make sure everybody gets what they need, and take our fair share for doing the work.
Not sure how long I can take it till the boredom eats me alive.
Despite my best efforts, I have become a bit of a chuckwagon.
Awww, I'm not sore about it. The creek beds are swollen on account of the rain, and while the herd can swim though them alright, it was becoming problematic for the chuckwagon. And it's true I've got a might more room in my saddle bags than the average buckaroo. Not quite enough room to drive the chuckwagon in whole hog, but the cowpokes unloaded her into my cargo bay (such as it is), popped the wheels off the wagon, and fit it all in, snug as a bug in a rug,
It's a lot more weight than I'm used to carrying, but the cowboys gotta stay fed. Especially after slogging through the water and mud all day long.
Blimps making blimps. Out in the open! No more secret societies, hiding behind closed hangar doors. At least that's how the old timers tell it. I've never lived in a world where blimps didn't make blimps, but I guess not that long ago that wasn't how it was.
The Blueshard Shipyards are bustling with blimps and people alike, working together to create the best technology we can. The Shipyard doesn't compete for contracts--it creates designs everyone can use. Investment in it is purely for the science, and the lifting factor it provides all the other sectors of the economy.
I buzz up and down the airfields, delivering parts. I am just an apprentice after all.
I've left the nest and ready to pursue my dream of a life on the range. After traveling miles and miles over the inland Salty Sea and High Cactus Desert Range, I've hooked up with a pod of sturdy cowpokes who are happy to have my help with the herd.
When they first took a look at me they fancied I'd make a file chuckwagon, but I didn't come to this home on the range to be a glorified flying food truck. No! I came here to rope and drive those doggies like a pro. I buzz the bulls and get em' going where we need 'em, and have already pulled a buckaroo out of a tight spot with my rope ladder!
Big thanks to old Uncle El singing us those cowboy lullabies every night before bed.