Green Shirts and Black – Part 1

OK, here’s the opening of the draft of the quasi-steampunk story that I’ve been chewing on since last June. It started with seeing a Zeppelin over the Bodensee, near Friedrichshafen, and went from there . . .

The long shape of the airship appeared faint at first, ghosting in and out of the creamy clouds and water-pale blue skies over the Bodensee. Charlotte smiled, amused by the thought of a ghost airship. After all, any ghosts in Europe traveled by airplanes, since both existed in equal numbers, that is, zero. No, Charlotte reminded herself, a few pre-Veil ghosts still enlivened castled and ruined abbeys. The airship drew closer and she could see details now: the silvery grey gondola below the large, grey-white shape of the gasbag, and the faint lines of the internal supports of the dirigible. But she heard nothing. Only the cries of gulls down at the docks, and hoofs on cobblestone pavement, and shoes. No engine noises, no whine of dynamos, nothing to hint at the arrival of the daily Zeppelin between Meerseburg and Würzberg, with intermediate stops.
She glanced at her ticket again, confirming the date, time, and luggage load. She’d paid for twenty kilos of baggage, not thinking she’d need more than ten. But European styles weighed more than American, as she’d discovered when she began packing. Charlotte brushed her free hand over the thick wool twill of her walking skirt and twitched her matching jacket straight. She’d avoided anything fancy, but even so, European clothes required more care and anticipation than did her usual slacks and sweaters. Although, once she’d seen the toilet facilities, skirts made perfect sense – you could squat modestly in a skirt, and balance more easily.
A bell’s soft chime caught her attention. “Meine Damen und Herren . . .” the man on the announcer’s platform called. “Ladies and gentlemen, the President Osbert is docking at this time. Please wait until the arriving passengers have disembarked before approaching the boarding steps. You must have your ticket in hand when you reach the cabin door. The President Osbert will leave in one hour, following refueling and ballast adjustment. I repeat, please wait until the arriving passengers have disembarked before approaching the boarding steps. Thank you.” He set down his megaphone, consulted his pocket watch, and walked quickly but without hurry to the foot of the docking mast. Other men in matching dark blue and brown uniforms would be spreading out, reaching for the tether ropes once the Zeppelin latched onto the mast and any static grounded out. Charlotte had almost memorized the little booklet during the ride from Scotland to Amsterdam.

Alma T.C. Boykin (C) 2014, All Rights Reserved.

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