With Hidden Things now revised and sent off into the ether, I have time to start (or resume) other projects. A little bird is whispering in my ear about a couple anthologies that are asking for short stories, but at least for today I’m reacquainting myself with Humorless (a story which, if nothing else, amuses me; sod you all).
Anyway, in honor of it being… (*checks date, then Googles*) ahh… the anniversary of the purchase of the Alaskan territory from Russia, I thought I’d post up the first page of the story.
So… right. Here ’tis; footnotes and all.
This is what happened.
The airship hung (as it had for the last sixteen hours) above the city of Bodea-Lotnikk,1 more than making up in intimidation what it lacked in grace.
While the ship’s appearance, armaments, and reputation would typically draw a certain amount of attention,2 they had nothing to do with the many thousands of faces currently upturned and staring at the craft; their attention was not on how the zeppelin looked, but was what it was saying.
The dirigible visibly shook, in fact; vibrating with the sound of a man speaking.
A drunk man.
“We have – I have – returned at no small risk to warn you. The city.” The ship (or rather, the voice that the ship was projecting) not-slurred in the careful way that was generally reserved for angry trial lawyers and functional inebriates, “The city is in very very very great danger.”
“So you keep saying,” replied the city (or rather, every metallic surface within the city). “But you have not said why, or even from whom.” The city (or at least the voice that the city was projecting) was smoothly regal, and did not sound at all drunk. Slightly annoyed, perhaps a bit patronizing, but not drunk. No one in Bodea-Lotnikk looked particularly surprised that their city was talking; it wasn’t a terribly common occurrence, but it happened often enough that most people knew what to expect when it did.
A talking zeppelin, though; that was something else entirely. That was something worth paying attention to.
Which was, of course, the problem.
1 — The most populous urban area in the Grand Duchy of Kroon, comprised of no less than 86 distinct boroughs, assimilated townships, long-vanished villages, and subsumed hunting grounds. Built around the junction of the Kroon and St. Siblas rivers, the area is named, collectively, for the two largest cities that make up the metropolis – Bodea and Lotnikk – the former the duchy seat, the latter the mercantile heart of the region. One is tempted to refer to the metropolis itself as ‘sprawling’. In the interests of completeness, it behooves the author to note that several other adjectives used to describe unconscious drunks are also quite serviceable.
2 — The bag of the dirigible was oblong from starboard to port as well as stem to stern – like a fat cigar that had been stepped on – and was woven of asbestos and glass silk. The whole of the thing was encrusted with sensor arrays, weapons, armor plating, landing platforms for smaller craft, several clockwork mechanisms of undetermined and likely illegal purpose, and one transplanted roof garden. The overall effect, when viewed from the city below, was that one was looking up from the bottom of a pool at a fat woman floating on the surface, wearing an ugly dress and too much jewelry.