I started writing a story for Blaze, based on the character we created for his airship pirate Halloween costume last Fall. In the past, I have found this blog to be a good way to stay motivated to finish projects, so I decided that if I post a bit of the story each week, I will stay motivated to finish it. I need a bit of motivational help, because I have to rewrite more than one chapter of the story, because it was not backed up when the computer crashed. I had been hopeful that the information on the computer could still be saved, but yesterday we got the message that the hard drive will have to be replaced. So, anyway, here's the beginning of what I did save.
Chapter One (part 1): A change of Schedule
Chicago was a railroad hub. The city was like the spider sitting in the center of a web of tracks. This giant spider of commerce and transportation, also, had an insatiable thirst for shipping; drawing in all of the heavily laden import ships that traveled Lake Michigan, and spewing forth ships, equally heavily laden, with it's own products to sell to the rest of the world. But, when the airships needed a landing field, that honor went to Elgin, 40 miles to the West. The land was cheaper and the growing industrial city needed a fast, reliable way to get its products distributed.
In this busy air port, a tall, thin, young man, dressed all in black, sat on an unlabeled barrel that looked suspiciously like a powder keg. His left foot was on the ground, but his right ankle was resting on his left knee. He was using the sole of his boot to strike a match. He watched the flame devour the wooden matchstick. Then he shook out the flame with a flick of his wrist and tossed the tiny, charred stub of the match into the dust in front of him. He had obviously been occupied in this way for quite some time; there were several dozen of these blackened bits scattered near his left toe.
Penelope watched him for a while, pretending to be writing in the small notebook she carried. The man noticed her standing there, dropped his latest match, and tipped his battered top hat to her. She nodded back, even though this acknowledgement of him meant that she could no longer keep her distance. She regretted it almost as soon as she began walking towards him. As she got closer, she realized that the bandoleer he wore across his chest held sticks of dynamite, along with a vile of glowing green liquid. He struck another match, held it near his nose, and watched her through the flame for a second, before he threw it down.
" Good afternoon ma'am." He said politely, in a voice that made it clear that he was not simply clean-shaven, he was too young to shave. That made Penelope even more apprehensive about his careless playing with fire so close to explosives. The former schoolmistress inside her screamed out that he needed a good scolding, but she choked down the urge.
She looked past the boy to the aging hybrid airship behind him. With the exception of a few hot air balloons taking tourists on sight-seeing jaunts over the city, the air port was mostly occupied by modern Zeppelin style airships. They looked like giant cigars, with passenger or freight gondolas attached to their underbellies. The ship moored just beyond the boy, was slightly larger than the rest and had a small steamship attached just below the control room gondola. Hybrids had been quite fashionable twenty years earlier, but now that people had become accustomed to air travel, they no longer required the reassurance that an ocean going vessel could be detached from the airship while traveling over water. The safety record for airships was really quite good. It was said that more people died each year in carriage accidents than in airships, and the air-piracy problem had been nearly eliminated.
"Uh, hello," Penelope managed to say, while looking at the ship and trying to assess its sky-worthiness. " My employer has sent me to arrange transportation..." She was about to say more, but was interrupted by the boy typing on some raised buttons on a leather armband that covered his right arm from wrist to elbow. He bent his head towards the armband and shouted, "Hey, Captain! We got a live one down here and she's pretty!" Penelope raised an eyebrow at him, but said nothing.
A cheerful woman's voice replied from the devise, "I will be right down!" Then there was a slight change of tone and the voice continued barely above a whisper, "and Blaze, you and I will have a little talk later, about the proper way to speak in front of a client." Penelope quickly absorbed several pieces of information from this brief exchange. The wristband worked like a telephone for talking to the people aboard the ship, the captain had sounded disappointed with the boy, but not particularly angry, and, most astonishing of all, the captain was a woman.
Before Penelope had much time to think about this unusual situation, a woman was walking down the gangplank towards her. The only indication that Captain Neriena Wordsmith was a woman, was the long white skirt she was wearing. She wore a black military jacket with a gold epaulet on each shoulder. A large revolver hung in its holster from a wide black belt. Her hair was pulled up into a tight knot at the base of a black officer's cap, that had the bill pulled low, making it hard to see her face. She walked with a sailor's swagger and heavy soled men's work boots peeked out from under the hem of her skirt with every purposeful stride she took.
The Captain came to a stop next to the young man and placed an affectionate hand on his shoulder. "Good afternoon miss," she addressed Penelope, "Captain Wordsmith at your service, and this," she nodded towards the boy, "is Blaze. I'm sorry about his manners. I hope he didn't offend you. He is an invaluable member of my crew, but I'm afraid that he still requires a little
polish. We're working on that, but really his strengths lie in other directions."