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The open prairie gives a blimp room to think. That's what @Lasso Pout says and it's true.
We've been heading for Paradise -- that's the name of the city where @Carolinaeuphrosyne's time capsule needs to go. And there's been nothing but sage brush and mesas as we've made our way towards it.
Sometimes I look back the way we came and think of the Bluefins. A virtually indestructible airborne intelligent fighting force. The most powerful the world has ever seen. So many good blimps led astray. They were dangerous, sure, but they weren't the brains of the scheme. We were meant to be the most dangerous tool ever created, but we were still just a tool -- in this case, a tool sold to the highest bidder.
That was the source of the trouble. Carolinaeuphrosyne told us herself -- that name was one of the few remaining clues left in the wake of the destruction they wrought.
But history isn't written yet. Not like it is from Carolinaeuphrosyne's point of view. And I was realizing the size of the score I had to settle.
I slipped off behind a mesa and let the rest of the group get a ways ahead before I started doubling back.
"Well, golly Ms. Carolinaeuphrosyne, that's quite a tale," I said.
"Will you cool it with the cowboy talk, Lasso?" said @Soap Lotus. "I mean, we've all changed since we left the nest, but it just sounds put on, if you know what I mean."
I didn't know how to respond.
"Well heck, Mister Crime Lord, if you'll excuse a little cultural sensitivity in getting to know my posse. But we've got a certain way of getting things done out here, on the prairie. And what I hear is that Carolinaeuphrosyne needs a bit of help completing her mission."
"Her mission is complete! She made it here! She saw the Confusion! And you narrowly escaped dying. I think she's seen plenty."
Carolinaeuphrosyne had fallen asleep around the fire, exhausted from her tale.
"I distinctly heard something about a 'time capsule.'" I said. "And I aim to get her there."
The Blueshard Codex was not as complete as we would have liked. Significant portions of many leaves were obscured with coffee stains or another solvent we have not been able to identify, while others were torn or otherwise missing.
However, what remained allowed us to create a limited, one-time use method of transporting a small team physically through time and to this specific period in history -- beginning shortly before we made contact with @Lasso Pout and his outfit of wranglers.
And so we came. While we have no way of returning to our own time, we have made arrangements to gather all the information we can and place it in a "time capsule," which is a dead-drop for the future. We will bury it in a location that was undisturbed since the time of the Confusion -- that is, the apocalypse yet to come -- and hopefully shed light on what really happened during this time for our colleagues in the future.
My only regret is that I see no way we can help prevent what is to come.
I devoted the next five years of my life mastering this new language. It was proof that blimps had not only been once been sentient, living creatures, but that they had incredibly complex social behaviors. And I was only about to begin to learn just how complex.
The original collection of material I'd salvaged from the gigaplex site turned out to be hugely important, as it represented the largest known sample of texts acquired from a single source. Through translation, I learned they were the records and notes of a business or organization known as the Blueshard Shipyard. The records presented a detailed accounting of the activity of the shipyards in the year leading up to be the period in time known as the Confusion. This was also the time the the shipyards were apparently destroyed.
These records are what became known as the Blueshard Codex. They tell the epic tale of the creation of a fleet of mighty warriors, transcendent in their aerodynamics, perfection in their synchronized movements, ruthless in their efficiency, and deadly in their accuracy. Even the codename of this group is redacted from the records themselves, but it is nonetheless a tragic story of how this elite force was created, trained, and ultimately misused -- sold to the highest bidder as a mercenary fleet.
It's hard to underestimate just how much this discovery changed our picture of the past. Talking, singing, poet blimps? Sentient fleets of deadly, warrior blimps? It put the archeological record in a whole new light.
Especially because the Blueshard Codex also contained the instructions for a time machine.
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.