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"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.
A blimp nursery can seem pretty small, once you reach a certain age. Uncle Elvin was a great dad, and the Spatuloso taught us how to respect ourselves as blimps. But breaking through the outer leaves of the nursery and into the wild wide skies is something we all knew would have to happen sometime.
Soap Lotus was a rebel, a loner, and had to go his own way earlier than the rest of us. He was the oldest, and always had something to prove. He taught the rest of us a lot. We just wish we knew where he ended up.
Me, I've spent more time in the blimp barn than anybody else--tinkering, inventing, everything from simple repairs to designing whole new aerodynamic flows. Now I'm headed off to an apprenticeship, working at the mighty Blueshard Shipyards, home of the most advanced airship facilities in the hemisphere.
Sure, I'm young, but I just know I can show those crusty old Zeppelins a thing or two and truly make my mark!
I guess I’ve fallen in with a rough crowd here. Leroy, Burt, Evenander the Psychic, Scarred Lil, Jimmy the Put Up, Little Gnarls, and PJ. They do what it takes to extract a living off the streets here in Coconutville, and what they do isn’t always pretty. I thought by now I’d have a steady job, and an apartment, maybe with a view of the bay... instead we live in the abandoned warehouse district, Evenander pulling them in, Little Gnarls holding them up, PJ going in for the bag and tossing it up in the air to me on a flyby. We meet back at our latest flop and divvy it out, making a meal out of whatever Burt and Scarred Lil can scrape up and Leroy dishing it out.
It’s not the life I meant to choose, but at least I’ve got a posse.