Since electric lights became widely available six years before, the city of Edinshore had taken to the new technology with a vengeance. Captain Hansen thought the lights of the boulevard lit up Great Glenn, the city’s giant clock tower, with surreal beauty.
“I still can’t believe you have him,” said Gambut, the diplomatic attache to the nation of Swendenmark.
“Oh we have him,” said Captain of Marines Wolshank. He preferred to be called ‘Gunny’ in the time-honored tradition of an airship’s leading marine. “The trouble is, what to do with him.”
“The nations of Galamine, Hacronit, Ferrisomy still swear fealty to that wretched Cardinal Pinnacle,” spat Gambut. His disgust for the murderer of millions during the infamous ‘Demon Hunts’ was plain on his face. “Foolishly, their leaders believe the Highest One could summon the Almighty himself if they refuse his demands. They still plan to invade Anglinde and Frincia as planned.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “If you could bring him to Swendenmark, whom all nations involved accept as neutral, they could see him quite powerless and you might stave off the most horrific war ever seen.”
“He’ll never make the trip alive.” said Hansen.
“Bitten by a Bull Shark, you know,” added Gunny with typical candor.
“I’ll not ask how. Well, so much for professional courtesy,” murmured Gambut. “He needn’t be alive, you realize. Simply preserved and identifiable.”
Gambut handed Hansen a clear cube with a tiny butterfly suspended in it.
“No, it’s artificial. The inventor calls it, ‘Petrolite.’ It’s made from a black sludge waste product. You could pour the hot, molten material over the dear Cardinal and preserve him indefinitely, just like that butterfly.”
“Should he be alive or dead when we do this?” said Hansen.
“Bullets are expensive,” noted Gunny.
“Excellent! Let’s do it.”
“One thing,” warned Gambut. “You need to get him to the Embassie For Alle within a week, before the invasion begins.”
“Fine. We’ll just sneak through Frincia to make it there in time.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Gambut. “Hacroniti pirates are very active in their skies.”
Gunny grinned like a tiger. “Let them come.”
“I do believe the Good Gambut mentioned something about pirates,” said Captain Hansen as another shell exploded off the airship’s port bow.
“They have us bracketed to port and starboard, Cap’n,” said Hampton, peering through the collapsible long glass. “Run for it?”
“I daresay not. This is a Q-ship, and we’re far better armed than these piddly 8-gunners. Let’s do what we do and be merchanty.”
“Right you are, sir.” Hampton pulled a lever that enabled a ship-wide broadcast and spoke into the sound-powered phone. “Ship-shape and Merchanty lads!” The entire crew knew the command to disguise the gun hatches and appear as an unarmed merchant.
The crew of Hansen’s Glory To Thee played a dangerous game. The aeromium fields, all that held airships aloft, also provided protection against enemy gunnery. Consequently, guns could not fire through their own shields. A ship normally manipulated its aeromium fields to permit “holes” where the guns could fire. Propellers that drove the ships forward needed airflow and were likewise unprotected. For these reasons, battles between airships usually began at about 4 nautical miles. The field holes were small and hard to hit. Airships could literally dodge enemy fire if they maneuvered constantly.
Hansen’s crew did the unthinkable. They deliberately allowed an enemy vessel to come close where their vulnerable “holes” could easily be targeted. Likewise, Hansen’s ship could target the enemy’s field holes. Hansen counted on destroying enemy gun positions before they could return fire. They hadn’t lost a battle to date.
The pirate closed to 1800 yards (roughly 1 nautical mile) and held there. Point blank range for airships. Glory To Thee hove to and halted her engines as ordered by the pirate’s flag semaphore.
“They’re sending over a cutter,” said Hampton.
“Very well.” A small airship exited the pirate vessel and cruised slowly by the Glory To Thee. Satisfied the ship was safe to board, the crew threw grappling hooks to moor the cutter to Hansen’s ship. Soon the pirates were aboard and treating the crew roughly. The crew knew better than to respond before the trap was sprung.
Footsteps sounded outside the cockpit where no pirate should be. Surprised, Hansen and Hampton leveled their guns at the door.
This story continues from a previous one. You can find it here: http://momusnews.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/gone-fishing-sunday-photo-fiction/
Each week, The Speakeasy at Yeah Write hosts a 750 word writing challenge including a media file and sentence that must be positioned somewhere specific in the work. This week the sentence, “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” can be positioned anywhere in the work. This time, my idea is quite long, but I tried to finish with an enjoyable cliffhanger. The rest will be continued later on. Here’s this week’s prompt: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/142-open/