((This post is a continuation of Wiggy’s adventures at sea.))
AIR KRAKENS HAVE BECOME, at least in my mind, mythical beasts. Even though I have seen one with my own eyes, I can scarce believe such a malevolent mountain of cold-blooded terror does truly exists.
The attack during the storm did little damage to the Ligeia, and that was quickly repaired while we were hove-to while the storm abated. More difficult to repair will be the loss of the crewmen. With our numbers reduced, I have the dubious honor of now being part of an airship crew. It will be my lot to fly aloft along with two other crewmates when the leviathans are sighted, and together we three shall endeavor to bring one of the monsters down.
The captain has ordered the ship to sail in a search pattern, as he feels there must be more of the beasts nearby. Orders are given to sail on a starboard beam reach for 1 hour, then the ship is brought about and we sail back with the wind on our port beam for another hour before turning again. Over and over we cross the choppy seas under a streaky sky and with a lively wind.
Toward the late evening, the cry sings out from the masthead: “Krakens Ho! Nine o’clock high!” We all rush to the rail to catch sight of the beasts. There, four or five miles distant, we see dark almond shapes slipping in and out of the low clouds. How our hearts race at the sight! To a man, we cheer and laugh like drunken scamps until the captain roars at us.
“Man your posts! Are ye seamen or are ye scalawags? Strike all but the main and ease the sheets. Make my course downwind! Ready the airships! Look sharp! We approach the beasts slow and silent boys, and tomorrow morn we launch!”
While the crew scrabbled to follow the captains orders, Tashtempa tapped me on my shoulder and motioned for me to follow. He took me aft to the airship, and began to explain the operation of the equipment.
An airship for hunting Air Kraken is a flimsy affair. An open frame of light metal contains three seats. A narrow plank beside the seats allows the crew to scramble about while aloft, should the need arise. Two large cylinders are attached on one side of the framework. These are the capacitors that hold the killing charge. a spool of thin wire connects the harpoon to the capacitors, and when the harpoon is fired into the monster, the spool unwinds as the harpoon flies from the cannon. When the harpoon strikes, the switch must be thrown quickly to stun the beast. Tashtempa connected the cables to the capacitors and we began to charge them.
Mounted on the opposite side of the frame from the capacitors is a pipe and valve festooned sphere. This is the acetone-hydroxide hydrogen generator. Tashtempa explained that the hydrogen is used to fill the air bag, and to power the engine that spins the propeller.
My job will be to load the harpoon cannon, to throw the switch and electrify the monster at the correct time, and to do what ever else I am told to do. Tashtempa has the honor of firing the harpoon cannon, and Jean-Pierre, a surly french sailor, will pilot the airship. The preparations completed, we retire for the night.
The sun set hours ago. Though I have not slept, I feel no fatigue. I stand at the rail and stare into the dark skies. The dawn is only an hour away, and I can hardly wait. Tastempa joins me at the rail. He mistakes my agitation for fear, and claps me on the shoulder.
“Wasa matter Wig? You wanna live forever?” he says.
I grin back at him and then turn my attention back to the skies. I can just see the first red rays of morning color the east horizon. It is time to fly.