Friday, 5 April 2013

The sins of the Father

Well, my 99th Blog post (for The Chimping Dandy at least, regular readers will know of my repeated forays into flash fiction, sponsored, fumigated, canned and sold by the very worth James Josiah) and it's yet another trip into the Steampunkery fuelled world of the LadyDorleith Ahralia, countess of Minidandia and her band of ramshackle corsairs aboard the airship Edward Teach, scourge of the skies, killer of spiders and lover of shoes.

If you'd like a little background, or just want to read the previous five episodes, you can read them here, here, here, here and here - That's hopefully the right order. They feature at least three terribly real people and a selection of ugly puns, thinly veiled references and shamelessly stolen ideas and tropes from popular fiction.


'Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!' Yelled Frobisher, the lights in his face flashing from an angry red to a vile supporating yellow, 'Unexpected lifesign detected in engineering! Intruder Alert!'

The captain jumped from her bunk, still groggy from the celebration after the successful rescue of Dorys, and her own return from an implied watery grave, 'Shut that damn alarm off you bag of rusty cogs! Security team to engineering deck, immobilize the intruder, whatever it is I want it alive!'

She pulled on her jodhpurs and kneeboots, rescued the crumpled linen shirt from the floor, buttoned it up and suddenly noticed the touselled hair of Torville poking out from under the covers. The sound of his gentle snoring now obvious as the alarm had been silenced.

'Bugger!' She said, slowly lifting the covers and confirming that he was, in fact, naked, 'And double bugger!' She looked for slightly longer at the taut muscles on his back than was strictly necessary, then sighed and exited to the bridge.

The crew of the morning watch turned and saluted, 'Captain on the Bridge!' a crewman whose name she couldn't remember at the best of times yelled. The noise made her wince more than the alarm had, but she resisted the temptation to raise her finger to her lips and shush him.

'Why is there an intruder on my boat?' She asked the assembled throng as she sank into the command chair, 'Anyone?' A sea of blank faces was her only reply. She thumbed the Intercomm, 'Security team, have you found it - whatever it is?'

'Baju-merah here Ma'am, engineering's clear, no-one here who shouldn't be here. We've checked everywhere!'

Frobisher chose that moment to voice yet another alarm, 'Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert! Unexpected lifesign detected in the Forward avionics cabin!'

'What?' exclaimed the Captain, 'That's at the other end of the... How? Frobisher, check the logs, was the intruder detected anywhere between Engineering and Avionics?'

'No Ma'am, the signal disappeared from Engineering and simply re-appeared in Avionics.' The emotionless brass face still managed to radiate an air of abject confusion.

'Mr Baju-merah, report to Avionics, bring our unexpected guest to me now! Frobisher, perform a diagnostic on the internal scanners, if you've woke me up because you've gone defective I'll have When reprogram you, overarm, with his chainsword.'

The pattern of lights on Frobisher's face skittered as he performed the self diagnostic, 'All sensors performing within prescribed parameters, zero defects found, my assumption is that my log entries are correct.'

'Then how the hell is something jumping from one end of this boat to the other without passing though all the points inbetween?'

'I have no...'

'Rhetorical!' Shouted the Captain, 'Look it up.'

'I am fully aware of...'

'Ma'am, this is Baju-Merah. Avionics is clear, in fact, I don't think there's actually enough space in here for anything larger than a chicken.'

'Frobisher, is our intruder larger than a chicken?'

'Yes Ma'am, scans indicate that it is of standard dimensions for a humanoid male. And he is also no longer in Avionics.'

'Has he re-appeared somewhere else? The galley? Up on deck? In one of the Gasbags perhaps?'

'No Ma'am.'

'No, he hasn't re-appeared or No, he's not in the Gasbags?'

He has re-appeared, but it is in none of the areas that you suggested.'

'So, where is he pray tell?'

'In your quarters.'

She turned, along with the entire bridge crew, to face the door to her quarters. Activating the Intercomm she whispered, 'Mr Baju-Merah, to the Bridge, as quick as you like.'

It only took the security team minutes to get to the Bridge, but in that time the Captain had armed herself with a compression pistol and a longknife. and was stood by the door.

'I'll go in first, you take up covering positions, stand close so the door doesn't close.'

'Ma'am, may I suggest that I...'

'Mr Baju-Merah, I appreciate your concern, but the interloper hasn't shown any degree of hostility as yet. If anything, his antics seem to be designed to confuse us - He could have simply appeared behind any member of the crew and shot them in the back of the head if he'd wanted to.'

She took a deep breath and stepped through the door as it opened. The second her heel cleared the frame, it slammed shut at ten times its normal speed and locked. She spun and banged futilely on the door, then turned back to scan the room, her eyes slowly getting used to the gloom. The automatic lights had failed to turn on and even Frobisher's head was dark and silent.

'Torville!' She called, looking towards her bunk, 'Frobisher!' There was no reply from either of them. She felt her way forward, holding the pistol out in front of her. 'Where are you? Damn your Argh!' She rubbed her shin where it had rapped off one of the ornate castings on her iron bunk.

'Allow me,' Said a mellow voice from the far corner of the room, 'Lights!'

Instantly, the wall lights came back on. The Captain blinked, and turned towards the voice.

'You!' She raised the pistol and pointed it the wiry man sat in her easy chair, 'What are you doing on my ship?'

'At your service Captain,' Criven Preen raised himself from the chair, removed his hat and bowed deeply, 'I apologise for the dramatic means of my entrance, old habits die hard.'

'I'll say it again, only more forcefully... WHAT are YOU doing on MY ship!'

'There's no need for unpleasantness my Lady, nor should we have to worry about unfortunate accidents,' He waved his long fingers and the compression pistol slowly faded out of existence.

'Whu?' She looked down, the dull tingle in her fingers the only evidence that the gun had ever existed at all, 'How did you..?'

'A simple parlour trick, the weapon is back in its rightful place, in the arms locker, on the bridge... Your, ah, friend is also back in his rightful place, asleep, in his cabin. I took the liberty of removing the last twelve hours from his memory, saves any later discontent in the ranks.'

'What do you want?'

'Want? I want to deliver my message and go home, these things worry me,' He indicated the ship around him, 'If the Gods had meant us to fly, they would have given us gasbags.'

'Message? What message? Who is it from?'

'My Lady Dorleith Ahralia, Countess of Minidandia, In Nominate Ruler of the Open Lands, High Voort of the Shattered Spire and Keykeeper of the Pewter Army - I bring greetings from your Illustrious Father, Massimo Lohlephel, Baron of...'

'My Father? My Father fell at the Battle of Tromega, I saw his ship explode! He's dead!'

'Not... anymore...'

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