Spatulosoearliest post first | most recent post first
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.