Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Something is bothering me

In the past months that I have been captain of this ship we have taken many unusual commissions; yypically cargo haulage of some description, often with a side-note to minimise customs complications but nothing overtly illegal.  My crew seem diligent, the ship operates well, though quite how it does so is another matter of intrigue for I have never seen a ship of the air constructed in quite such a manner; yet with its eccentricity comes a certain grace and I am growing to like the old girl. 

On the matter of the ship, her heritage is a mystery still. Vix, the engineer, who seems to know every nut and bolt and who takes good care of her, is my only means of communicating with the mysterious owner of the vessel. all orders and commissions are routed via the simian and at times it undermines my authority as Captain. I will have this out with Vix at a convenient point though when this may be is unclear as we have just taken aboard our most recent "cargo".

I have just watched as the dock porters ferried crate after crate of oddly labeled belongings into the hold and then greeted the group that will, it seems, be our paying guests for, well for the coming weeks at least it seems, as this voyage is both open ended and somewhat ill defined. The group seem pleasant in spite of the presence of Tinies in their number. They are a mixed bag of aristocrats and academics and this whole affair reeks of some 'grand tour' whim; I have never been one for guffaws and pleasantries. 

"Are you sure they meant to hire our ship Vix?", I asked with some sincerity, looking across the dock to the large form of 'Lady Selene' tugging at her moorings. The sleek silver ship, one of the Steamland passenger vessels that routinely carried the great and the good between the nations, would be a more typical hire for such a social mix. "Surely she is more their type?". 

He smiled back, nodding. "She would not suit their needs Captain. We will be travelling beyond her range, away from the steamland air docks that can handle a ship of her size."

"and where exactly are we going?"

"That is not clear yet, I'm sure they'll let us know". With that he jumped away through a small hatch as is his wont, vanishing when things get at all uncomfortable for him. I was fuming but forced a smile as one of the group passed me by.

I cannot fully explain why I am uneasy about it all; perhaps it is those confounded Tinies, I really ought to be able to deal with my paranoia but they set me on edge. Perhaps it is this lack of control. I am Captain by name alone it seems as Vix was the one who they dealt with, and through whom all our orders are communicated; I can only assume that the puppet master does not yet trust his new captain. Vix and I need to get this straightened out when we get to Steelhead.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Surprises come in all shapes

I write this addendum with haste, I leave the city earlier than I expected. I cannot believe it has come to this. The gods smile not upon me, no, they point and make mirth at my cost.

As I was writing the preceding entry there came a loud knock upon the door. Expecting a thug of some hue or other, I took up my pistol and called out as if I were busy.

"Who is there? Hold on I won't keep you a moment.", I moved quietly to the window, the ill-fitting wooden frame jammed, creaking as I leant hard against it. Hitching up my skirts I hooked my leg out over the ledge, breathing deeply as I regarded the drop to the cobbles below.

"It's a long drop, Madam.", an oddly accented voice called out from one side and I started before looking up to have my gaze met by none other than the monkey, the very same simian that had been in the bars around the port district.

"So I am to die by the hand of a tiny after all.", I called back. The distaste I held for that kind thick in my intonation. He blinked, sighed and shook his head.

"Madam, you are no use to me dead, nor maimed upon the cobbles. Please now, I have a proposition for you, kindly climb back inside so we can talk like civilised people.". He had a look of almost comic sincerity. "and do please adjust your skirts Madam.". His comment, so unexpected made me smile, as I looked down at myself, pitifully perched half in, half out of the small window, and so, somewhat bewildered, I half clambered, half fell back into the room, and still straightening my clothing, opened the door, the pistol still gripped firmly in my pale fingers.

"Miss Hindenburg, I presume? Allow me to introduce myself.", the monkey ignored the weapon, waving meaninglessly in its face and entered the room with a half hopping, half walking gait. "My name is Vix Indigo and I do believe that we may be able to help one another out. If you would care to hear my proposition?". His eyes stared past me as he nodded to the room. I stared in disbelief, what could this beast have to offer me? But at this point anything short of a sharp blade was a worth considering. He sprang over to the table and sat upon a chair. "Do shut the door Madam, I would prefer we do this in private.". Dumbfounded, I pushed the door shut, locking it.

The monkey called Vix, waited for me to come over and sit at the table before continuing. "I will not play games, Miss Hindenburg, I am the engineer on an airship and we are short of a Captain. I have had trouble finding a Captain who is both skillful and trustworthy and that includes yourself.". He looked me up and down, demonstrating quite adequately that his offer was made not in good will, but in resignation; like me it seemed, he had come to the end of the path and had few options remaining.

The monkey was well spoken and yet not gentrified like so many of the preposterous tinies I had met in the past. Indeed as it came to pass, he was no tiny at all. "We are in need of a captain, someone who has both the skill and the...", he paused, "...personality to pass without suspicion through the steamlands."

"But what makes you think I am any of those things?", I asked, my heart was pounding furiously, was this some kind of trick?

"Oh I think we can both accept that there is more to you Miss....Hindenburg, than meets the eye, and unless I am sorely mistaken I was not who you were expecting. Truth be told, madam, I have little choice in this matter and neither do you. My ship needs a Captain and you wish to acquire yourself a ship, it seems we have common ground.", he indicated to my small pack of personal effects, "I see you are already packed, come on then let's go.". I fumed at the presumption in his words. "or I can leave you here now, and perhaps the next knock at the door will have a better offer for you?". I snatched up my pack and grudgingly nodded acquiescence. We left through the back door just before the first light of dawn and as I stomped haughtily along, sulkily ignoring the blue primate that bounded along by my side, I turned over this development in my mind. I had my commission, my employer may not have been to my taste but I had finally found the first rung of the ladder; I could finally start to climb out of here.

Now I find myself the captain of an airship, we will depart shortly, my odd crew and I. 

No hope

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave. I have been unable to rebuild my life and now I find that my life is in danger. Even as I write, awaiting the first light of dawn and the first train from this city, I freeze at every slight creak or groan on the stairs outside my room assuming it to be the soft tread of the assassin or bounty hunter seeking to ingratiate themselves with the Al Andalusian authorities. I brought this upon myself, too keen to move on, too eager to put this sordid existence behind me I was careless and naive.

I met with Mr Anself earlier this evening. He is not a pleasant looking gentleman. I can still see his uncomely, somewhat turgid face, its thin sparse strap of black beard stretching as he laughed and ridiculed those brought before him. As I arrived at the pub, a small weaselly looking man was being ejected clutching his bloodied right hand wrapped in a filthy makeshift bandage, to his chest and moaning. I hoped his crime has been more than to ask for employment. Anself's retinue, his odious collection of lackeys, stood around grinning as I stepped forward to his small table. They let me speak of my ambitions, my wishes, this was my last hope, I put in everything I could dare to sway his favour and they lapped it up, smirking to one another, as they nodded in faux indulgence. I all but pleaded for his indulgence, there is a fine line within these circles between servility and weakness. I could not afford to seem too desperate and come across as weak and I spoke in crude in-civil terms of my time in the customs office of a trading state, the story I have used to get the meeting, spoke of maintaining order and procuring bribes, of indelicate means of eliciting information.

When I had finished, the assembled group of trumped up cut-purses and thugs went quiet as a tall wiry man, his eyes small almost lost in dark sunken sockets, fixed his gaze on me as he leaned forward to whisper in Anself's ear. Anself nodded, leaning back from the table, a most un-becoming grin splitting his corpulent face. He looked at me for a long moment, looking me up and down. It was a look I know well, a look that on the streets precedes the miserable negotiation of your services. Before I knew what was happening I was pushed from behind and sent sprawling in a most undignified manner as a fat arm caught around my waist, pulling me to his side. The crowd roared with laughter as he leant forward, his head crowding against mine, his breath heavy with beer and tobacco.
"Well said my dear", he leered close, his breath hot against my cheek as I wriggled to turn away from him. "Big ideas you have, big plans", he paused, looking out to his audience. "for a lying tenement pinchcock.". He literally spat the words, faom catching on the bristles, manhandling me as I tried in vain to escape his hold. "Yes, I know you, the truth, not this cock and bull tale about customs. D'ya think you can come round here with these big words and ideas and pull the wool over poor Guido's eyes?"

"No, no", I stammered, "you have it all wrong".

"What were your plans eh? Take the fat fools ship and sell it on? What if you'd actually convinced me? How were thinking you'd fly it?".

"No! I can do it!", I exclaimed, "I just need you to trust me, I'd fly it better than any of your idiot Jacks. I've flo..", I stopped mid flow as I caught his eye and looked about at the faces surrounding us. Of course he had my measure, what had I expected, in his eyes I was a whore trying to make a way out of the gutter. He was only slightly wrong.

He laughed, a loud, full belly laugh as those around us cheered and jeered at me. "Stick to what you know deary, since when did a rookeries Jade, like you know anything about airships? Been dabbing it up with some of my boys I shouldn't expect? Well, my dear I'm sure the boys here'll look after you won't you lads?". The crowd cheered as his pudgy hands man-handled me, and I saw my chance, stamping down on his foot, he released his grip. Ramming my elbow as hard as I could into his belly, I leapt on to the table and was out of the crowd and into the street while he could do little but scream abuse. As I left I saw that damned monkey, at the side of the snug, watching silently.

But perhaps I should have stayed, become glad-girl to his band of rogues, there's little else left for me now.

I ran from the pub into the narrow cobbled street, ducking into the first alleyway I came upon, vanishing from sight, never daring to look back more than a moment, feeling sure that his henchmen were close behind. I took the long route back, I didn't want to be followed, but of course, they doubtless already know where I am now, yet at the time it seemed the right thing to do. So it was with caution that I returned here, to my basic but not unpleasant room, for what will, one way or another I am sure, be my last night in this city.

I took a full half hour to pluck up the courage to cross the street and head up the side stair to my room. It was then that I found the note that made the memory of my torment at Anself's table seem trivial.

I had opened the door to my room cautiously, a quick look around confirming that it was all as normal, I quickly locked it and then grabbing the cheap gin from the table, poured a large measure into a glass. I stood staring out of the window for some minutes before I returned to the table satisfied that for the moment at least there was no one lurking outside.

And there it was. The note was succinct and subtle, and deadly, folded neatly, scented with rose water it had been left where I would be sure to find it. It read simply, "Hello Fanny, Hindenburg is it now? Interesting", it was signed, as if I needed to be told, by Miguel de la Rosa. My worries about Guido's band evaporated, this note was a death warrant. It meant I had been traced back beyond the sordid, stinking streets, back to my former life, by the ruthless mastermind of the criminal underworld. Naturally I assumed the worst.

So now I must run before I am taken by force so I am packing ready for the morning train. I am packed in truth, its not as though I have a lot possessions. I will be gone as...

Friday, 14 August 2009

Rejection and Paranoia

I am in disarray, for the past two years my life has been dedicated to getting the money to get myself out of this place. The plan was simple, get the money, get a working commission with a down payment. I was, it seems stupidly naive, woefully myopic. The air barons laugh at me in patronising tones, the short haul baggage jockeys are little different though coarser in their language. They have no time for a woman with no references, I have no place in the skies, except as some cabin-dolly "entertaining" their passengers. Should I be surprised? Why should they trust a ship and a contract to anyone such as I? And a woman no less? I am no longer Fanny Quimby, that person is nothing but a far away memory now.

I cannot safely tell them of my background, let them know that I can, and probably have, run rings around their own airships; explain how I know of the unofficial customs procedures of the Steam lands and their trading partners nor relate to them my adventures. I was good in my time, damned good, but memories are short and I have been gone a good few years. Yet there is one thing of which I can be sure, the nature of this kind, my kind, has not changed in that period.

No, nto a man jack of them from the lowest gobs, to the dandies that term themselves fly-bustiers, and their self appointed baronic lords; air-pirates, smugglers are never to be trusted. We will betray another of our kind as soon as look at them, there is little honour amongst these thieves, and so to let myself become known would be as to sign my own death warrant. Even now I see whispers and nudges, faces in shadowy alcoves pointing and conferring, I am becoming paranoid, and jumpy, I carry my gun at all times, even back in my room.

And then there is him. The monkey. He has been there each night, watching, I don't trust him nor any of his ilk, after all it was one of them that put me here, bloody tinies are worse than thieves, scheming and conniving, there is one out there who has something coming to him but I fear that this one means me ill too. He was there tonight, watching, just watching, his beady eyes following me, a cold stare with no shame. He does not flinch nor hide when I make eye contact, he just sits there, watching, that stupid smile on his furry face. No, he, I do not trust at all.

But I have cast the runes, I have to follow this through or admit to failure, I have left the squalor of the rookeries I will not be returning. I have to make a change or crawl back into the undergrowth and that is not my way. Tomorrow, I see, Guido Anself, the last of the air barons here in Babbage, perhaps the last real hope I have. This room, a small, basic but clean room above one of the many taverns, is chipping slowly away at my savings, I have to succeed, tomorrow, yes, tomorrow will be the day.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The beginning of the end of the fall of Frankie

This is the end. No more of this pandering to the vile hordes of
drunken sailors, nor coddling the immature fumblings of the youthful
gentlemen of Babbage. No more the dollymop, I.

Last night's haul was the last I hope, another drunken sot, who paid
more than he expected and will doubtless not even remember the reward
I gave him for his generosity. Like all those before him, I do not
pity his loss or care how he explains it in the morning, it was scum
like him, who sent me here.

I recall those first days after my discovery on the ship, those days
when I wished they'd simply killed me. The wounds across my back still
seeping beneath the slowly forming scabs, I would cower in the shadows
of the hold in the forlorn hope that the abuse would end, all the time
waiting for the next one to arrive and degrade me at his whim. No soap
and water, no fine words, nor fancy clothes can clean away those
feelings, any more than creams and poultices can address the visible
scars traced across my spine by the lashings of the cat.

No, I pity them not, and their sponsorship of this poor young girl
seeking only to better herself, will be put to the greatest use. I now
have my pot of gold, my deposit and soon I will have myself a
commission, a working load, and yes finally, a ship once more.

This is the end, when the sun rises it will be a new day and Francesca
Hindenburg will rise and leave this dirty sordid life behind once and
for all, for tomorrow I go to the pilots' taverns, and therein find
myself a life.