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The Airship

Sunday, October 16th, 8:20 pm

In the great dining hall of the Henri Giffard XVI, Emerson held the little spoon above the flame. He watched as the wax melted and started to bubble along the edges of the bowl. “I remember when I was a child, around six years old,” he said to Malus, “my aunt used to make candles. She would melt wax in a pot before pouring it into clay molds. One day, when I was watching her in her kitchen, she had to run and answer the door. She left the melted wax in the pot on the table in front of me. I put my hand into the pot. The wax was still very hot… but it had cooled enough that I could keep my hand there for a second before pulling it out.” Emerson poured the sealing wax along the back flap of the envelope and pressed it in place with his stamp. “It looked as if I were wearing a tight, shiny white glove. After I had waved my hand about for a bit to cool it down I was able to slip it from the wax… like a snake peeling its skin. I had a perfect wax cast of my little hand.” Emerson blew on the seal then double checked to make sure Junie’s address was correct before placing it beside the letter to Ceejay. “It seemed magic to me… that I could have such a perfect copy of my hand… with fingerprints and all.”

“I’m assuming you have a point.” Malus took a sip of his wine, a beverage Emerson had noticed, that Malus was enjoying just a bit more with each day they spent aboard the luxurious cruiser. They were awaiting the arrival of the main course which promised to be a mouth-watering prime rib with fire-roasted mixed vegetables and Yorkshire puddings.

“No point, Martin,” Emerson smiled, “just life.”

“Ah yes, the infinite wisdom of Emerson Lighthouse: it is boundless and without a point.” Malus chuckled at his own little joke. “But tell me, how can you remember that little story when you claim to have amnesia?”

“Emerson continued to smile as he met Malus’s quizzical look, choosing to answer the direct question with an indirect answer. “On November 11th I will have a year of memories as Emerson Lighthouse, and on November 12th I will have a year of memories of New Babbage. But every so often something else, something from another life, sneaks through. Who is to say, why out of all the things we forget, certain memories remain… or randomly surface… but they do.”

“Martin!” Captain Smith’s exuberantly spirited eighteen year old daughter Rose quite abruptly interrupted the uncharacteristically personal conversation the two men were having. “Might I join the handsome young squire and his most gallant knight for dinner this evening?” She asked with a wink.

Emerson stood as Malus held the seat for the young socialite with whom he (much to the disapproval of her father, Captain Smith) had been spending much time with of late.

“Martin,” Rose said leaning in and placing her hand on the young squire’s leg, “what do you think of the flautist?” She asked looking over at the musician who had been regaling the ship’s passengers with variations on same melodramatic theme since the trip began. Emerson was about to respond, on Malus’s behalf, that the ubiquitous music inexplicably made him want to cry. But before he had the chance the sound of a tremendous crash shattered their nerves. A grappling hook had smashed through the window behind them and the ship quite suddenly lurched to the side. Pandemonium erupted as shouts of fear came from all quarters. Emerson noted the sound of breaking glass throughout the port side of the ship as an alarm claxon started to sound.

“Pirates!” a man near one of the windows screamed. “We are under attack from air pirates.” Most of the passengers just sat in a state of confused inaction as the crew suddenly tried to recall what they could of their training drills. “To arms!” someone called-out. “All able-bodied passengers to arms!”


Any romantic notions Emerson may have held regarding pirates was quite sadly dashed once the swords were drawn and the battle begun. Despite some valiant effort put forth by the defenders of the ship (perhaps none more so than Malus, Emerson noted with pride) the pirates were too numerous and too well coordinated to be held at bay. Within the hour, the crew and passengers relented, laying down their arms. They were next separated into two groups, one held near the bow, the other near the stern. The pirates, not completely without mercy, set to task preparing the two life-craft to carry the passengers and crew to their fate as marooned survivors of a pirate attack.

“With a deep sense of regret, I will relinquish command to you.” said Captain Smith to the captain of the pirates. “But only because nothing is more important to me than the survival of this ship.” Emerson noticed a hint of sadness flash across Rose Smith’s face. “Yet I vow to you now, mister,” he practically spat the word ‘mister’, “with these good men and women as my witnesses, that I shall one day see this ship recovered safely. And on that day you and your crew will hang by the neck until your very life breath is choked from your wretched lungs.” With those final words, the life-craft were released and began to drift, upon the mercy of the strong southern winds.

Monday, October 17th, 2:05 am

Each of the two life-craft from the Henri Giffard XVI was designed to carry a load of approximately 45 passengers. The one carrying Emerson Lighthouse and Martin Malus now snuggly held 49… but not without protest. Unable to carry the extra weight she started a long slow decent to the dark ocean below.

“Sir,” shouted Mr. Moody to the captain, “this vessel is not designed to float. Should we hit the water the basket will be torn apart by the waves and we will surely drown.”

“Everything not essential to our immediate survival must be thrown over.” shouted Captain Smith as the crew and passengers began looking for anything that might be jettisoned.

In the midst of grabbing and tossing items, Emerson paused as something caught his eye. “Hey, I’ve never seen a gun like this before.” he said studying a thick-barrelled pistol he had found in the bag he was about to toss over the side.

“It is called a Very pistol, Mr. Lighthouse,” said Captain Smith glancing over. “It was designed by one Edward Very a decade or so ago to shoot flares as a signal of distress. Take care with that sir, it has but a single shot and we will most surely be in need of it.”

Few were more inept at firing a weapon than Emerson Lighthouse, yet somehow in the process of testing the weight of the gun by aiming over the starboard rail, he effectively demonstrated the firing potential of the Very Pistol with an accidental discharge. The blue-green ball of flame was most impressive as it flew on an arc through the air ending in a rather dramatic impact with the hydrogen bladder lifting the Henri Giffard XVI, about 120 metres above and to the starboard side of the smaller craft.

The resulting explosion was spectacular! Several aboard the life-craft gasped in shock and dismay. The fire-ball quickly engulfed the pirate vessel towing the flaming wreckage. Together the two tethered craft began a death spiral towards the ocean far below.
“My ship! My precious ship.” Captain Smith cried out in spontaneous anguish, his face an orange glow as he watched with incomprehensible horror the flaming remains of his life’s love drop from sight.

“Oh the humanity!” someone cried from the stern as Emerson Lighthouse and Martin Malus stared on in awkward silence.


“We are still losing altitude… about a foot a second, by my estimation.” Mr. Moody warned from his station near the dials. “We need to lose somewhere between three and four hundred pounds… or we will impact with the ocean in approximately one minute.”

“The weight of two grown men.” The captain mused considering his actions.

Last on first off is what I say.” advised Mr. McGegor.

The sombre light cast by the full moon reflected the fear in everyone’s eyes in shades of silver and blue. Captain Smith drew a gun from inside his jacket. “Gentlemen,” he shouted above the howling winds as he took aim in the general direction of Emerson Lighthouse and Martin Malus, “I offer you a choice. You can jump, or I will shoot you both where you stand. Either way you are going over.”

“Daddy no!” Rose screamed.

The captain held up his hand to silence her. He looked positively demonic as he stared down the two men, who in his eyes had become scapegoats for this most unfortunate disaster.

“Isn’t there some rule about captains and their ships we might call upon in moments such as this?” suggested Emerson.

“I’ll give you to the count of three to make your decision…” said Captain Smith, ignoring Emerson’s point of objection. “One…”

“Well, Mr. Malus…” said Emerson, feeling the gravity of the situation, “… if you jump, I jump.”


Before Captain Smith called out ‘three’, the knight and his squire stepped up and over the rail, leaving the crew and passengers, formerly of the RMS Henri Giffard XVI, to the mercy of the winds and chance.


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  1. Brother Lapis Brother Lapis October 21, 2011

    At least he made good use of that sword that he stole from me. 

  2. Sky Melnik Sky Melnik October 21, 2011

    Note to self: Emerson is a very *very* bad shot.

    • Petharic Petharic October 21, 2011

      Being acquainted with Mr. Lighthouse it wouldn’t surprise me to hear him start to boast of single-handedly bringing down a pirate ship… if he survives that is.



  3. Mr. Arnold Mr. Arnold October 21, 2011

    *Arnold, who currently still believes Emerson killed the entire crew while smoking, would still feel completely justified in his recently sent letter, that may never reach him, saying that Emerson’s negligence killed everyone who had been on the vessel at the time.  Just not how he had previously imagined.*

  4. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon October 21, 2011

    *ponders if the life-craft count as another form of transport*

    • Petharic Petharic October 21, 2011

      We should all be vigilant that in the unlikely event of his return, Mr. Lighthouse not try to swindle Mr. Mornington by claiming the life-craft as the fifth means of transportation.

  5. Junie Ginsburg Junie Ginsburg October 21, 2011

    How amusing it is that the ending perspective is on the potential misfortune of those in the life-craft, not our heroes, who had just gone over the rail.  As if those on the ship wouldn’t be at the mercy of wind and chance if Emerson and Malus had stayed on-board.


    • Petharic Petharic October 21, 2011

      Chance already bestowed a great mercy on the life-craft survivors in ridding them of Mr. Lighthouse.

  6. Ceejay Writer Ceejay Writer October 21, 2011

    ((I do hope Emerson was not praising the benefits of Ceejay’s part time vocation as a pirate in Armada’s Scoundrel Fleet in that ill-fated letter!)) 

    • Petharic Petharic October 21, 2011

      Should Mr. Lighthouse survive I am sure he will make up whatever suits him at the time.

  7. Erehwon Yoshikawa Erehwon Yoshikawa October 21, 2011

    “She asked looking over at the musician who had been regaling the ship’s passengers with variations on same melodramatic theme since the trip began.” 

    (( Still rotfl at this ))

    • Jedburgh30 Dagger Jedburgh30 Dagger October 21, 2011

      …wonders if they are playing “Nearer my Lord to Thee”?

      • Brother Lapis Brother Lapis October 21, 2011

        More likely the theme from “Titanic”

  8. Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs October 21, 2011

    Well, I’m feeling *much* less sanguine about having him and his Tesla cannon next door now…

    *wonders if Ceejay can recommend someone for home owner’s insurance*

    • Ceejay Writer Ceejay Writer October 21, 2011

      Pffft. Ceejay has been waiting approximately three years for Cleanslate to cough up coverage for the CocoaJava.

      • Aeolus Cleanslate Aeolus Cleanslate October 22, 2011

        Oh the CocoaJava is eminently insurable. It’s *you* who confound the actuarial tables, Miss Writer.

        • Ceejay Writer Ceejay Writer October 22, 2011

          But, but, but, but, *splutters* Um….. I’m just your average Burlesque Pirate Writer girl with a penchant for opium and laudinum, and a small fixation for dancing with Trolleys.  I’m SURE the actuarial tables take such normal activities into account!  You’re just not using them right. Probably have them upside down. *nod*

    • Junie Ginsburg Junie Ginsburg October 21, 2011

      Now that I think about it, New Babbage is probably not a great place to sell insurance policies.  Seems like there would be a disproportionate number of claims, especially for accidental death and dismemberment.  (Not to mention intentional death and dismemberment.)

      Policy riders that would potentially be needed by the residents of our fine city:

      — Tesla Cannon Discharge

      — Zombie Plague

      — Temporal Distortion

      — Doctor Obolenski

      — Air Kraken Attack

      — Raging Homunculi

      — Alien Invasion

      • Kimika Ying Kimika Ying October 21, 2011

        Considering the other usual hazards….it might be easier to simply list *allowable* claims.

         – Dying of natural causes*

         – ?


        * Natural causes shall not include: being killed by an angry [husband, wife, lover, mob, wiggyfish], or the result of having engaged in any activity violating the Being Bloody Stupid Act of 1641.

        • Junie Ginsburg Junie Ginsburg October 21, 2011

          Oh…I forgot Brain Transplantation (and any portion thereof).

          I think you have a good idea, Kimika, but I’m skeptical that records could be found of anyone ever dying of natural causes within New Babbage.  So if that’s the case, maybe it’s a GREAT place to sell insurance!

          • Erehwon Yoshikawa Erehwon Yoshikawa October 22, 2011

            Not to mention Bad Choice of Wishes. *cackles* 

    • Mr. Arnold Mr. Arnold October 21, 2011

      The fact that the Theater across the street sank had nothing to do with the Tesla Cannon!

      My errr…’luck’ however…I couldn’t actually tell you…this wouldn’t be the first time a building has collapsed in my general vicinity after all…

      • Petharic Petharic October 21, 2011

        ((I knew it… Arnold sunk Dr. Obolensky’s theatre))

        • Mr. Arnold Mr. Arnold October 21, 2011

          *The morning after Arnold’s ‘pie’ adventure, he had woken up, stretched, tried to groggily recall the events of yesterday, and was horrified and angry at what he did remember.  What really made his jaw drop however was when he was treated to the sight out of the window of a missing building.

          What in Perdition did I do last night?!”  He tried to remember if he’d had anything at all to do with it or if maybe it had already gone missing before…but he couldn’t.*

  9. Aeolus Cleanslate Aeolus Cleanslate October 22, 2011

    The Steamweaver Company actually considered opening a branch of their insurance conglomerate in Babbage several years ago. They say the lead actuary should be released from the asylum quite soon.

  10. The Reporter The Reporter October 22, 2011

    I don’t think any written work has gotten quite so much attention on one of the Babbage sites…

  11. Brother Malus Brother Malus November 1, 2011


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