Until your paper publishes a retraction for your last article, you may consider this your last letter from me. I hardly expected an attack on one of my former comrades from my own son. I realize that a paper must sell, and that the way to do so of late has turned to attacking the character of men, whether or not they are deserving of it. However I have expected better of you, and now find myself painfully disappointed.
As your paper has chosen to call into question the honor of Captain Bilke, I would like to assure you that the man that I know him to be, is a man of great integrity. I am not certain in what manner he came to his current post, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was through merit. He once refused to purchase a promotion, though he had the money to do so, preferring to leave his advancement to his own abilities. If he will not allow you and the other men of the newspapers to wander about his ship, it is because you have no place there, and in his position I would give the same orders. A green hand, wandering about unattended on a ship, can cause a good deal of chaos and damage, and damage can mean life or death on any ship. In the air or in the water.
Until I see a retraction in your paper, you need not respond to this letter,
Again I must ask you to look in on my father, I am very sorry to burden you in this way, especially with all that you must be going through with Willie, on your own as you are. This however is not something that I have been able to push from my mind. To be brief, father is angry with me, and I need you to offer him my apologies, since I know all too well that if I write to him now, he will destroy it without reading it. His demand that my paper publish a retraction of the last article is entirely unreasonable however. I do not have the power to ask my editor to publish such a retraction, and even if I did, I would not. Father must understand that this is the manner in which we are able to sell any papers at all. The people who buy our paper expect city government scandals, and so I must produce some. This is all in the name of feeding you and the children. Father may not like it, but you must explain this to him. It is not as if I am personally attacking his old navy friend. It is all business.
In any case, the article has served some purpose, as soon after the paper arrived, the captain sent a man to guide all of us reporters around the ship. There were still a few restricted areas, but we were able to see far more than we had before. I still have not had a personal word with the captain since we took off however, and I have my doubts that I ever will. When father said that he knew this man from his service and that he was a good man, my hopes rose more than I now know they ought to have reasonably. I should have guessed that any man that my father held in such high regard would naturally have to be as stubborn as he himself is.
I hope that the editor will be pleased enough with the piece I am sending him that he will speak well of the captain, at least enough to pacify my father. Mr. Donovan has made his life’s work speaking poorly of those in authority, so I shall not hope for too much. I will attempt not to send him any more letters that will give him fuel for such articles in the future however.
Give my love to Edna and Willie, yours with affection,
Airship Defender, over New Hampshire
Clipping from the Chicago Eagle
Sketches from a Military Airship
We start our tour with the control room, the heart of the ship. This is the room in which the captain of the ship spends most of his days, supervising the steering of the ship. The Defender is an advanced ship that is fully outfitted with the best of technology. She is connected to the outside world by a telegraph, so that the captain may get his instructions without having to set his feet on the ground. The telegraph sits in the corner of the control room, and during the five minutes I stood in that room, never once was it at rest. Several times the captain was interrupted in his conversation with us by the operator who required instructions on what to reply to messages. Captain Bilke assured us that if we meet with any difficulty they can quickly send for aid. Having seen the armament of the ship, I cannot imagine what difficulties it is that we might meet that we would require outside assistance against.
The gun deck of the ship is outfitted with the latest of technology, though for reasons of secrecy I am not able to disclose all that I saw there. This is the deck that on a passenger ship would normally be a promenade for leisurely walks. The large windows normally allowed for fresh air and sunlight for the passenger enjoyment and leisure have rather been converted to gunports. The gunners that we were able to meet were proud men all, vain of the trust placed in them and the resources at their disposal. It was clear that no expense had been spared to gain both the best weapons and the best men to fire them. It might rightly be supposed that any pirates who do meet with our ship, on seeing her armament, will wisely surrender without a fight.
That there is no promenade deck does not mean that no comfort is offered the crew. We were permitted to see the bunk rooms of the crew, as well as the mess. Both were appointed as one would expect for the crew of a private vessel. The beds were bunks, with a locker at the foot of each for the men’s personal possessions. Having eaten in the mess and shared the food of the men, I assure my readers that they want for nothing in that regard, the cook being more than the standard military issue. I was informed, on asking, that his services had been donated to the cause, by a wealthy businessman of Chicago.
I hope father is well pleased by my fall from credibility. In the hopes that the paper would loosen their stance on Captain Bilke I wrote of a gun deck and an armament I was never permitted to see. I was able to speak to the gun crew on the details of the deck that they served as well as what weapons they had, I ought say we had the opportunity as it was all reporters, but it seemed that Captain Bilke had instructed great caution to them. I am surprised in myself at how little guilt I feel over the small lie. For one, I am too aware of the sort of thing that the Hurst man is sending back to his paper. It would seem that credibility is little in demand in a reporter, so long as it does not have the paper sued. I am willing to have it thought that I got a meeting that the other reporters did not, it raises my stock, and it will perhaps please my father to have his old friend spoken well of.
I assume that father is still angry with me. I have not received any news from you this last week. I imagine that any letter that you have sent have been lost in any number of the cities we have passed over. With no news I do worry. Have you been receiving my pay as I was promised when I agreed to this assignment. Is Willie doing any better? How is father doing? You should bring the children to go see him, he likes them, and spoils them far more than he ever did me. I suppose that old age really does mellow a man.
Forgive the shortness of the letter, but the ship has started to rock, and I fear I will soon be completely unable to write if I continue. Captain Bilke spoke of a storm headed in our direction this morning, and I think it may be upon us. We are to stop in Charlotte for supplies in a couple of days, so direct your reply there. I look forward to once more knowing how things are at home.
Your loving husband,
Airship Defender, Atlantic Ocean
Please give my love to the children, and tell them that I miss them very much.
(letter never sent)
Draft of report for the Chicago Eagle, never sent
An Airship in a Storm
There are few times that a man feels more helpless than as the sky opens up above him, while he himself is in an airship. It is all the worse as a passenger. The crew is generally busy keeping all alive. The passenger is told to stay quiet in his room until he has been saved and the world becomes quiet. All that he is left with is the sounds of danger and the feeling of helplessness that comes of leaving others to do all of the work. Not that a passenger would be of any us in a storm on an airship. It is technical work, that requires training that no passenger has ever received.
The ship goes topsy turvy, buffeted by the wind and the rain, while all aboard fight to find which is the wall and which is the floor, and lucky that we are not guessing which is the ceiling. There are no meals, for there can be no thought of cooking. There is no laughing or talking, for who would waste his breath when there is work to be done? Never have I seen the ship in such a grim state, and yet no one will speak of the worst, for what would they do should they invite it? Instead the worst is written on the face of every man aboard.