Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An airborne adventure story

Had a great idea for a sci-fi adventure story about a group of oddball friends living on board a giant converted cargo airship, buzzing around the world, living on various cargo-transport jobs, some legal and some not so much, often falling by accident into helping the Little Guy against The Man... all in the context of a near-future totalitarian, One World Government type scenario...

then I realised, "Wait, that's Firefly."


So, this is for Ann,

I heard the clacking of the machine in the radio room while I was still making the coffee and feeding the cat that morning. If I'd known what was coming, and how close we were all going to get by the end of the week to a Union Reorientation Centre, I'd have pretended it was out of order. A telex from the Ceremoniere to all three ships in the fleet: "Req. gantry party at Location 12 in three days. Airborne refuelling and supply exchange and passenger pickup."

The engine's low idling rumble blended reassuringly with the smell of coffee as I padded back, still in slippers, to the galley with the sheet torn from the machine. Mostly I no longer noticed the sound or the vibration, that could usually only be felt through the floor plates in the galley thanks to the insulation installed at last season's refit. Wind was up, I thought for a moment. Far below, I could just make out through the galley's lower ports that the sea was getting choppy. Those must be some pretty big waves if I could see the white crests from up here, maybe even thirty-footers.

Wait, passengers? What passengers? Weren't we scheduled for a cargo drop in Thimphu? And I was getting desperately low on tea. And passengers are a pain. Always asking questions, sticking their noses...and they never paid up front.

Then the bed-fog cleared and the sea chop reminded me why we needed to get to Thimphu now rather than later. Another week, ten days at most, and the weather in the Himalayan airspace would be too iffy for a high-altitude crossing. It was three days to 12 and another four days back depending on the windspeeds, and I didn't want to risk another run-in with the Eastern Union patrols to cross lower down.

"Quid dat?" I typed back. "You're lucky the telex is on. I thought we were silent running until the ground party at Loc. 33." We had to get moving. They loved us in Bhutan and we shouldn't be late. We hadn't even met the new Druk Gyaltsuen, having entirely missed the royal wedding in the spring. It was hard enough to find places to set down three 600-foot long airships without attracting attention. Bhutan was one of the few places in the world that even satellites didn't pay much attention to, and we couldn't afford to annoy such helpful and friendly hosts. "We can pick up fuel at the beach wreck site on the way," and never mind the damn passenger, I didn't say.

"It's the bishop," Ceremoniere typed back a minute later.

Bloody hell, I thought. Another damn political meeting. More security risks with most likely another request for a "favour" that we would have to do for free. And the weather getting more howly over northern India by the minute.

"You can tell His Grace he's welcome aboard Frobisher when he's paid me back for our little 'emergency pick-up' in Bonn last year. Diesel isn't free, and it's getting harder to steal these days. If he wants to minister to the Euros he can plan his exit strategies a little better..."

Clergy made me cranky. They always figure they're doing you a favour by giving you a chance to do them favours.

"You just did," Ceremoniere typed back. "He's standing right behind me."

With a gun, no doubt, I thought.

"Fine," I typed back. "But if I have to store this cargo for the winter, he's paying the deposit. And he better have a crate of decent Darjeeling with him."



Ben Whitworth said...

"Firefly" meets "The Lord of the World". I could happily read several volumes of that.

Alex said...
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Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Spammers are automatically deleted.

Zach said...

I think Ben has correctly identified the mash-up ingredients here.

This would be so much better than another volume of "Transgendered lesbian vampire meets zombie with a heart of gold! Bigoted Republicans object! Grrl power!" littering the shelves today.

Well, I'd read it, at least.