Press "Enter" to skip to content

Cyclones hit New Babbage skies!

I am sitting down to write after having reapplied the plasters on the scrapes I received last night. It was a lovely evening and I had just moored my sailing air-yacht, the Gretchen, to a suitable spot near my clocktower lab. Seeing relatively clear skies (by New Babbage standards anyway), I donned my Smog-Oxygen exchange mask and cast off.

At first, all was going well. The initial launch path was a clear one. The winds were at a favorable angle… just enough to give steerage and momentum, but not so much as to require rapid changes of course to avoid knocking bricks from my neighbor’s chimney.

I sailed over to Port Babbage and lowered her sails. After leaning over the port railing to waive at Mrs. Tripsa and Mr. Melnick below, I once again hoisted Gretchen’s sails (my, that could be a rather colorful expression!)Due to the navigational challenges in that part of the city, I began to adjust elevation to avoid scraping Gretchen’s hull against weather-vanes, lightning rods, and steeple finials. Before I had a chance to fasten the elevation-sheet, the wind hit Gretchen’s sails like a stampede of Valkyrie’s en-route to a massacre of aristocracy. The good ship stayed right, but as for steerage, I was at the mercy of the winds.

Then with a crack, a charge ripped through the aether. There was a dark purple-teal flash and a then all was calm. Yet where was the Gretchen, and why was there a wall of coral inches before my face? Poseidon’s kelp encrusted beard, I was at the bottom of the sea! Try as I might, I could not free myself … the turbulent sea pressing me ever closer to the murderously beautiful coral forest. The cartridge I had loaded my atmospheric exchanger with was tuned to filter the fine particles of soot, metal and other industrial effusions from otherwise normal air. I could feel my lungs starting to ache and it was harder to focus my thoughts. With a last effort, I wrested free my aether-compass and attempted a haphazard trans-aether shift.

Coughing something other than smog atop a New Babbage roof was a new experience for me. I had not breathed in enough of the sea to do irreparable harm, but it was most unpleasant. I found myself in the very ungentlemanly position of being on all fours in a puddle of sea water and sea-weed, gasping like the trout I had caught for Saturday lunch. As my lungs slowly ceased burning I stood and surveyed my location. I had managed to shift myself to one of the rooftops inland of Port Babbage! As the bright colors and shapes above the streets started to come to focus, I reeled and quite nearly tipped off the roof when I saw the Gretchen, stuck at an angle in the New Babbage sky. It was as if she had been dropped in a large vat and flash frozen in a block of air using an experimental heat exchange or some chemical reaction. She was absolutely immobile, yet looked to be under way – sails at the full.

Fortunately, I had equipped her with a control linkage that I might be able to manipulate her more crucial instruments should I be cast overboard. I adjusted the transmission coil. Perhaps it was simply a dense patch of metal particles emanating from one of the local labs or factories, but for a moment, I thought I saw the Gretchen appear to flicker like the flame of a kerosene lamp before the chimney is replaced. I carefully eased on her auto-mooring and she was free! She gracefully travelled back to the Clocktower.

Walking back to the Clocktower, I went over and over the events. By the time I had climbed the stairs to the lab, I was still as confused as ever. Undaunted, and supposing it might have been an odd atmospheric hiccup, I repositioned her mooring and prepared to set off again. This time, I made sure all the sheets were ready in case of another sudden kick-up and the cartridge in my air exchange was a mechano-gill for underwater use – just in case. With her controls fast in hand and my eye on her gauges, I eased the Gretchen back into the airs above Clockhaven. This new launch point was a bit trickier, requiring an immediate altitude adjustment, but I was at the ready… I made altitude and began to tack. No sooner had the sails billowed and the mast swung to starboard when I once again lost control of her steerage. Watching the gauges I could see that we were being carried in a spiral up and out to sea. Gretchen and I were caught in the arms of a cyclone! Being prepared for such a thing, I had connected an older aether-compass to Gretchen’s auto-mooring mechanism. It would serve to preserve her well enough… it just needed to get her back close enough to the clocktower. As I saw us drift above water, activated the mechanism and abandoned ship!

Gretchen immediately disappeared with a loud Fffzzzscccchhhht-CRACK and an impossible yellow-purple flash. I was left plummeting toward the water below… exchange on, check. goggles, check. I tucked, did a triple roll and extended once again into a classic swan dive. One ought to be graceful in the face of death. I find it puts him off his game. I was preparing bring my arms together so that I could slice into the waves below with nary a splash, when I felt my toes tingling… then my legs… they felt quite warm and almost as if something were pulling back on them gently… then I heard the loud buzzing of charges building in the air around me… and with a crack! I was once again locked, upright at the bottom of the sea! I had not even had the opportunity to finish my dive.

I once again withdrew my compass. Without the pressing need for air, I calmly made the calculations for the shift to the tower. One arm here, the other’s pulsing point reaching out through the aether to a pinpoint in the air above Clockhaven. I traced my finger along the curved edge of the small cylinder joining the arms. The ring began to glow and I was back in the clocktower lab with Gretchen moored outside.

Thankful for my presence of mind I mused about what had just happened. Clearly an atmospheric disturbance had generated enough of a charge to create a slippage shift through the aether. Only two questions remained, but they were enough to send the chill of the icy depths into my marrow: had we fallen into it or had we been pulled? If we had been pulled, by what … or by whom?


Spread the love


  1. Grendel Footman Grendel Footman May 26, 2011

    must have hit the Vernian Triangle

  2. Dr. Cyberusfaustus Dr. Cyberusfaustus May 27, 2011

    You may be onto something sir! However, the clear quintessential interaction would rather suggest more of a Vernian Dodecahedron.

Leave a Reply