Spatulosoearliest post first | most recent post first
"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--"
"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!"
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.
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.
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.
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!?!