Journal of Water and Air Part Four

Ship Log of the Aeolus May 7th, 9pm

Traveling North by Northeast, wind at 9 knots

Picked up survivors of the Airship The Defender. Now traveling from land. Dragnet searching for wreckage of the airship will soon fill the area with official ships best to be avoided. Crew not satisfied with the rescue of men sent to hunt us, but there are certain codes as a sailor that one must follow. Save those who are wrecked in the hope that someday someone might save you. Have ordered Blaze to check the guns in case of meeting a navy or coast guard vessel.


May 9th,

Uncertain of my position on the ship, whether I was a prisoner or a guest, I was nervous to leave the room I spent the night in. A man brought me food, and told me to rest and gain my strength, which I took to mean that I was not to leave my room. It was not until today that I finally gathered the nerve to leave and see about the others.

In looking for my comrades I was able to take a look around the ship that I now found myself on. I passed by members of the pirate crew, but as no one said anything, nor stopped me, I grew bolder. It was clear that I was not to be confined to my room. As I looked around I wondered what the boy had thought we might do to the ship that the pirates had not done already. There were rips in the upholstery, what looked like gun shot holes in other places, and graffiti everywhere. Underneath this damage it looked as though the ship had once been an well appointed pleasure yacht, as I had first thought it to be when I saw it from our small boat.

I found my comrades in what looked as though it was the mess hall. All of them rose to greet me, even Captain Bilke.  They soon had food and coffee in front of me, and were asking me about my absence from the table the day before. I said I had not been feeling well from over exposure. It was too embarrassing to admit that I had been too frightened to come from my room. Instead I allowed myself to be fussed over by the crew, which was not so bad of a feeling, even if they did make comments about reporters not belonging on ships again. The pirate crew never approached us that day but I was well aware that there was always someone from the crew there, keeping an eye on us. Since we had been sent to capture them, I could hardly blame them for not trusting us.

At suppertime we were directed to line up with the rest of the crew for the cook to ladle us out our portion of the rations. It was clear that special treatment was over. Not that it was great hardship. The crew ate well, and so long as you did not consider that you were eating the product of theft, it was easy to gorge oneself. To my surprise Captain Neriena also ate in the mess hall, of the same rations. It was clear that this ship was a more democratic one than The Defender had been. I suppose I might have guessed this of a crew that would allow a women to be a captain and a boy to be the gunner. I have yet to see either demonstrate the role of either role however, and I do wonder if they are only officers in name alone.


Clipping from the Chicago Eagle

May 10th

Six men of the crew of the airship The Defender have been recovered from an overturned boat from the Atlantic. The crewmen had been clinging to the overturned lifeboat for over twenty-four hours, and had been at sea since the storm that The Defender was lost in. The men were in weak condition and it is not certain if they will live yet.

One man was able to speak to authorities but what he stated brings little new information. High winds caused the balloon to rip, he stated, causing the ship to fall from the sky. When she hit the ocean he assures us there was the greatest effort to launch boats possible, but he cannot be certain what became of them, as they were separated in the storm. He does say that he does not think their chances high considering the state of the ocean at the time of the wreck.

Among those saved is the reporter stationed on the airship from the Times, our own reporter, Emmet King remains missing however.Among those missing is also the captain of the ship, Chicago native Captain Bilke. Though no word has been heard of them, it is to be hoped that the other life boats come to shore in their own time, and all will be found in a state of good health.


To Christopher King

May 10th,

Dear Father,

How terrible it is to have one’s hopes dashed in the space of only a few short hours. As the news came accross the wires and then out into the streets “survivors found” I caught my breath and I do not think I breathed again until those hopes were crushed. Hope escaped me once again. I am happy to tell you that in my uncertainty I did not tell the children of my hopes. I would have hated to have to tell them that their father was still as lost as he was this morning. Keeping a happy face on for the children is getting more difficult now that I am not certain how long we will be left to question what happened to Mett.

I thank you for your offer to allow the children to stay with you for several days while I attempt to get our family finances in order. Bills are beginning to come due and I have not seen any pay from the newspaper since the airship was lost. I fear we may lose the apartment. I can sell some of the furniture, but it will be less painful if they children are not forced to watch. Mett’s absence is already difficult enough of a change for them, without them also seeing us sell things that they have known all of their lives.

I know that we both pray for good tidings,



May 11th,

This morning at breakfast Captain Neriena stood up before all of us, and told us that she had an announcement to make. Those of us who are not members of her crew at first paid her little mind as we assumed her announcement related to members of her crew. She soon drew our attention however, stating that what she had to say related especially to us. With that we became nervous. We might have been rescued by them, but they were still pirates. It did not escape the minds of any of us that they might have changed their minds and we might well be returned to the sea. Perhaps with even less than we had started with. The word marooned came to my mind.

Instead it was announced that a source on shore had sent them an important telegraph. A boat with survivors had been found, though the source had not written who were among their number. It was good news indeed. None of us was more relieved than Captain Bilke, who despite the sinking of The Defender still seems to think of every man on her as his charge.

The boy who was always with Captain Neriena came up to us after the meal was over. For the first time he introduced himself, calling himself Blaze. I asked him if that was his last name, but he simply said it was his name, and would say no more than that. Soon after that I heard another crewmember being called Catfish, and it occurred to me that it might be well for a pirate not to be honest about his name.

Blaze told us that we will be landing somewhere in Canada soon, for refueling and restocking of supplies. He would not say where in Canada, though Captain Bilke asked.  He made it clear that we were expected to keep to our rooms for the entire time that we were on the ground, and that guards would be posted outside of our doors, to make certain that we honored that. He said we need not try to communicate with any of the men of the airfield that came aboard as they all were being paid well not to notice anything. In any case, we were to be landing at an airfield that had no proper purpose, and the men we would be dealing with would be smugglers. They would care very little for our safety if they found that Captain Neriena had brought civilians into their hidden port of call.      

I had not been aware that there were hidden airfields used by smugglers, but once their existence was mentioned to me, I wondered that I had not thought of them. It was only natural that smugglers should want their goods to be somewhere other than the major ports of call. Captain Bilke asked if this meant that we should consider ourselves prisoners, but Blaze said that was not what he intended. He assured us it was for our protection that we should not leave our rooms. I suspected it was just as much for the protection of the ship’s relationship with the smugglers.

We have been told that we may write letters to loved ones to let them know that we are alive and safe, but that our letters will be read first, to ensure that we do not reveal anything about who we are with or where we are. This is an unexpected mark of kindness that I did not expect. I am certain the crew knows that they are endangering themselves by allowing this, and I think of them better now.


Journal of Water and Air Part Three

Report of the United States Weather Bureau

Virginia Station

May 2nd

As the pressure dropped all ports were telegraphed, and ordered flags to be flown to stop ships from sailing. Similar messages sent to all airfields. Ships at sea told to head to safe harbor. Word reached us from several, stating their intent to ride out the storm on, or over the ocean, it being safer than fighting their way into port during the worst of the storm. Several ships, list attached, failed to respond. It is supposed that the poor weather interfered with the signal.

At three in the afternoon, winds reached 50 miles and hour at times, and the front moved in. At our station the rainfall totalled twelve inches in an hour and a half. In places there was flooding. At least one ship was reported wrecked, and life saving crews were dispatched to rescue the crew during the storm. The cleanup is expected to be extensive.    


March 4th,

Being a writer means I am never without pen and paper, even in the worst of times. So it is that I find myself in an open boat without any food, but in possession of a notebook. For some reason however I find that I am more comforted by the notebook then I would be by food. The captain tells us that as we were hunting pirates we left the normal trade routes far behind, and it is unlikely that anyone will find us in this wasteland of water, known as the Atlantic Ocean. At least with a notebook I can leave something behind, while food is consumed and leaves nothing.

I find myself in a boat with Captain Bilke, the ship cook, and two of the common crew men. I am certain that I saw several other life boats lower from the airship before it sank as the air escaped, but we lost them in the storm. The captain says they had drills as to what to do in case of every disaster, and so he is certain his crew is safe, that he is more concerned as to what happened to the other reporters as they did not have that rigorous training. He took the chance to once more to speak on how little he thought reporters had the right to wander about on a fighting vessel. I was little able to argue with him, as recent events had proven it, and he had saved my life as the airship went down. I had stood as a fool on the gun deck in the chaos until he shouted at me to climb into the boat that he was overlooking the launching of. As that was the final boat to touch the sea, had he not shouted at me, I likely would have gone down with the ship. For some reason a sinking airship had more certainty for me than a small ship did on a stormy ocean. Still, following Captain Bilke proved the safer choice, and so I shall continue, no matter what should come. The more time I spend with him, the more I am able to see how it is that he is friends with my father. They both do not compromise, which is admirable, so long as they are in their element. As the captain was originally a man of the ocean, he seems at peace, even with most of his crew unaccounted for, in a boat small enough to the swamped by a large wave.

The sea has calmed enough for me to put pencil to paper now. Boredom has set in, and some of the crew have borrowed a sheet from my notebook to keep tally as they bet on how many fish they see in the space of an hour. It seems strange, with our lives all in danger, but there is nothing to do.Captain Bilke is not allowing us to row, saying that we need to save our strength, and due to the storm we do not know where land is. The most that Captain Bilke can tell us is that we are headed west. West he seems to think is a good direction, on the condition that we are where he thinks we are, which he cannot be certain of. I do find myself wondering how long it will be before my pay stops from the paper, and whether or not Molly will be able to find some way to support the children. Whether I live or die in this boat, I fear there will be hard times in my family.


March 5th,

It is funny how little water one thinks one drinks, until it is not around. I now find that I cannot speak for the lack of it, and the captain assures us all in a rasping voice that the sea water, even to wet our lips, will be something that we will regret. We now pray for rain with every breath, not that we have a container to catch it in, but just for the temporary relief of being able to catch fresh water in our mouths. I asked Captain Bilke what the chance of such a rain storm was, but he was not willing to say, stating that since it was spring the weather was too unpredictable.

We have not seen anyone else on the ocean but us, and some fish. My companions continue to bet on the number of fish seen in an hour. The bets sound outlandish to my ears, since they are mostly of money that the men may never see, especially if we do not spot a ship soon. Three days in an open boat without food and water is enough to tax even the captain, who I never thought would ever show any weakness at all.


Clipping from the Chicago Eagle

Nothing Heard of Airship

Readers of this paper might recall that this paper, as many of the other papers in town had a reporter on the airship Defender. That being the case, it can be imagined that we wait impatiently for any news that might be heard from this city’s newest airship. All that we are being told at the moment however, is that communications have been lost. This leaves us, as well as the rest of the city, the question of what is being done about it. Are we to allow the government to let the airship disappear into the mists of time, with no report of where it rests? That the Defender met with disaster there is little doubt. Reports of the  storms that have rocked the Atlantic have been reaching our ears for the last couple of days. There must be an immediate search for the the lost airship, or any survivors, and as a city we must insist upon it. Would we as a city not do the same if it was a New York ship lost on the Great Lakes? Think then how different the speed would be in rescue ships being launched. It is time for the Second City of the United States to insist that our citizens and interests are to be just as protected as those of New York.


March 6th,

I am now of the opinion that nature is taunting us. After giving us a storm that caused our ship to be destroyed, now instead we have received a shower of light rain that lasted for only a half hour. It is just enough to save our lives, without granting us any prospect of lasting survival. There was almost a fight today, when one of the sailors produced a couple of crackers that he had shoved in his pockets and refused to share them out, saying that he had hidden them until he could endure the hunger no longer, and that they were therefore his. I thought that the other sailor and the cook were to murder him for these scant rations, and I am ashamed to say that at the time I considered them justified and thought of joining them. Captain Bilke interfered however. Even in our reduced state, Captain Bilke has the strength of personality to make a man sit up and listen to him. The crackers were shared out among all of us in the end, the sailor having been made to understand that they were not worth his life. Eating my share only made the thirst more intense however, and undid the work of the short rain in giving me relief. I was forced to drink the small amount of water I had caught in my hat to wash down the remaining crackers, something that I am certain will haunt me if there is no rain in the coming days.

The more that we float on the ocean the more that I realize how large it is, and the more certain I am that we will not be found. I do not know how far we drifted from our intended course during the storm, nor do I know how far we have drifted in this open boat. I am fairly certain that if they are searching for us along our planned path will will never be found. More and more our chances are pinned on finding land alone, and none of us find ourselves in an optimistic frame of mind.


Dear Molly,

You must take courage. I was at sea for most of my life, until age forced me into this dull retirement. I have seen many men survive worse storms than the one that the Defender faced. There is any number of reasons why she might not be able to respond to the signals which they are sending to her. If I were you, I would not speak to any reporters, and keep your head up when you are forced to go out. These reporters are like vultures, and I would hate to see our family’s fears plastered about on the cheap journal pages.

I have thought about what you said the last time you visited, that you feared that the Chicago Eagle would cease to pay you Emmett’s wages if they did not hear from him soon. If they do show so little heart as that, I must insist that you come and stay with me. I will not see my grandchildren in the poor house. I receive a small pension, but I am certain that we will be able to manage if such a thing should come to pass. I pray that it does not. I am certain that my son, dutiful as he is to you, will write you as soon as he is able, and tell you of his wellbeing. Until then you have a duty to the children to remain strong and take care of both yourself and them.

Hoping that this trial is soon left behind us,

Christopher King

Chicago, Illinois  


May 8th,

We are rescued. Indeed yesterday we were secure, but I had no time to put pen to paper then. At the time I was not entirely certain if I would be allowed to keep this journal on my person. Having set out to capture pirates, I now find that I owe them my life.

Yesterday morning still found myself and my companions floating in the open boat, and we were beginning to speak of death out loud, though I imagine it had hung over us all before that. One of the sailors was telling us of his mother and what he thought she would do without him, when we saw an airship come over the horizon. How slow the airship seems when you are in a situation such as ours. We could not even be certain that they would see us, one little boat out on the ocean. Very few airship have lookouts, unless they are of a military nature. As the airship grew closer to us we could see that she was certainly not a military ship, she was too battered for that. No military would have allowed a ship so patched and ragged into the sky. Not only that but she was of a very old model, one of the earliest of her kind I have ever seen still in use.

There was no end of relief in our small boat when we saw them dropping a rope ladder down from the observation windows, and slow down, as they approached our boat. By unspoken agreement the cook went up the ladder first. He was the one who had suffered the most from being in the open boat for so long, and there was some concern he might not even make it up the ladder without assistance. Once he began to climb, Captain Bilke tied the rope ladder to our little boat so that we would be towed along until we could all climb to the airship. Though we all longed to rush up the ladder, Captain Bilke would not allow us to, saying that we were not certain what they had tied to ladder to at the top, and that he would not like to damage our chances of rescue through hast. Captain Bilke also insisted that he ought to go last, to untie the rope ladder, and to see that the men of his charge were safe before he was. I was the fourth man up the ladder, feeling that it was only right that the sailors should be safe before I was. After all, they had done the work of trying to save the Defender, while I had sat around helplessly and watched them. Captain Bilke certainly was in agreement with this assessment of my place in the line, for he said nothing about it and merely told each of us when he thought it safe for us to begin our climb.

I knew fully well how high it was that airships went, but it was not until I began my climb that I realized how far it was up, and just how horrifying it was. I am not normally afraid of heights, but I found fear in abundance now. After a time I found it better to look up rather than down, focusing on my goal, and safety. Focusing on the ship above me allowed me to notice details that I had not noticed from the boat. For one thing the airship was of a gondola design, a phrase that had been taken very literally in this case. From below the airship looked as though it had the full keel of a boat. It seemed it was the ship of a person who did not trust the air so much as most airship owners did, and desired a safety net, just in case there was a crash just like the one that I had experienced not so long ago.

I climbed onto the ship expecting to find myself on the deck of some millionaires pleasure yacht. I could think of few other private citizens who would be able to afford a airship of their own, and who would take the trouble to customize it in the way that this ship had been. Instead I found that I was on a gun deck as spectacular as I had been assured the Defender had. All around me stood a group of men who seemed to dress however they wished, accord to the fancy of each. Some of them looked like confidence men, flashy but fashionable. Others in the group looked like the common factory workers I passed every day on my way to the newspaper office. Those who had climbed up before me were standing amongst these men, looking very uncertain as to what the future would hold. I went to join them, deciding that having faced the last few days together, we ought to face this together as well.

I will say for Captain Bilke that he climbed aboard and looked about himself and remained completely calm. He simply walked over to stand in front of the rest of the crew, myself included. There was a terrible awkward silence, as none of us were certain what to say in the face of this highly armed motley group, and they did not seem inclined to say much to us. The question did ocurre to me whether or not we were in fact rescued, or if the danger had simply changed.

Then a woman and a boy came forward. The boy could not be older than the boy who blacked my boots for me when I was in the city, but he was wearing a gun on his belt, and had another across his back. He had a battered cap on his head, an open vest, and no coat at all. In other words he looked the perfect bandit, an unnerving thing in someone so young. As for the woman, she was wearing the sort of skirt that is very much in fashion at the moment, but that was the only regular thing about her. She was wearing a uniform coat, a knife on each hip, and an ascot at her throat. Her hair was held up by a comb, inlaid with mother of pearl. I was not actually certain whether her intention was to dress as a man or a woman.

“Are they all aboard?” asked the woman, turning to address one of the men at the front of the group.

“Yes, Captain,” said the man, though nothing else in his manner conveyed the respect normally due to a captain. That observation however was nothing in comparison with the shock of the realization that this ship seemed to have a female captain. With that she turned and walked away, but the boy remained. If she was the captain, it seemed he was a sort of second in command, though he identified himself to us as the ship’s gunner.

We were brought water, and food, but told to drink slowly, and eat slowly, as we might make ourselves sick otherwise. Captain Bilke took a few light sips of water, while the rest of us struggled to consume what we wanted so badly slowly. He seemed more occupied with looking about himself and taking in our new location.

“What ship is this?” he asked finally.

“The Aeolus, Neriena Wordsmith as captain,” said the boy.

“A pirate ship, and a pirate captain,” muttered Captain Bilke, though not so quietly that the boy could not hear him.

“Just so, pirate hunter,” said the boy, smiling at him, but with a bit of an edge in his voice. “Our telegraph has received some of the signals of those searching for you. We know who you are as well.”

“A wonder you rescued us,” said Captain Bilke, looking the boy straight in the eye in exchange.

“There were those who were against it,” the boy said bluntly. “Get some rest. Oh, and if I catch you damaging the ship in any fashion, I will throw yourself and your men here overboard personally.”

I had meant to write of this yesterday, after I had been shown to a cabin to rest in, but the moment I saw the bed, I felt a wave of tiredness wash over me. After everything that had happened, and days in a cramped open boat, what I found I really wished was sleep. Instead I woke up early this morning to put this all down on paper, while it is still fresh in my mind.

Journal of Water and Air Part Two

Dear Emmett,

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,

Christopher King

Chicago, Illinois


Dear Molly,

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.


Dear Molly,

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.


Journal of Water and Air Part One

This is something I have been writing for my youngest brother, so the tone will be very different from what I have posted here before. I assure you, it is still up to my usual quality standards, take that as you will. 


Dear Father,

I am sorry to inform you that I must break my promise to see you again before my departure. I had intended to come to see you tonight, you were to be my final visit, but the captain of the ship has refused me that privilege. I was called on at home this morning unexpectedly, and told that I must report to the ship before noon, to take my berth. I remembered you mentioning that you knew the man from your days in the navy, and I informed him that my request for leave was in order to visit you, but he was adamant. As it was, he was displeased because I arrived several minutes past his unexpected, and unwelcome, deadline. I do not know how Captain Bilke was when you were in the navy together, but I cannot say that I think much of him now.  

Molly is of course devastated that we will not be able to have one final night together as a family. Please look in on her and the children from time to time, to see that they are fine, and give Molly what comfort you can. I am sorry for the briefness of this note, but the last mailbag is leaving the ship, and if I do not end now, I will not be able to post this letter for at least a week, leaving you to wonder at my absence.

Your son, in hast,


Checkerboard Flying Field

Broadview, IL


Henry Donovan, editor

℅ The Chicago Eagle

Dear Sir,

I fear that the letters I pen aboard this accursed ship will have to go through the hands of several rewrite men before they are fit to be printed. Little that is fit to be printed is said here, if what I have heard thus far is any indication. My father at times could swear like, for lack of a better phrase, a sailor. I suppose I might rejoice that some traditions have not changed with the times that we live in. Perhaps I should seek comfort in the fact that I am surrounded by the language of my boyhood home.

As to what information I have that might be published in the newspaper, I have little. I am denied access to much of the ship, though I suppose it will be a relief for you to learn that the same rules that have applied to me, have also applied to the Examiner’s man aboard. In that we may  at least put to rest our fears, the captain is an uncompromising sort, not the sort of man from whom Hearst could purchase special favors. Despite the rumors that have abounded, I doubt very much that the captain’s appointment is due to any political favor. He seems to rather be a genuine military man, who wishes only what is best for the discipline of his ship.

Regarding the Examiner’s man, I have a troubling report. He is not only a writer, but also a photographer. He wanders about with his camera, taking pictures of every area the captain has allowed us to enter, and has a coupe of carrier pigeons, which takes up most of his sleeping quarters, which he uses to carry the pictures away to his paper.

I must ask that you send me the papers whenever you can, so that I can know what is happening in the city. Not only ours, but the papers of the Examiner as well. I have no doubt that the captain will have his sources in the city, and will shape his actions accordingly. It would be a good thing for me to know what his influences are so that I may write my articles in an informed fashion. Our first landfall will be at Indianapolis, where I will mail this. Please direct your instructions, and the papers I have requested, there, as we will be docked for a week. I have no means of knowing where we will be going next, as the captain says that it depends on what news he receives from the locals there.

Your Servant,

Emmett Wallace King

Airship Defender


Dear Molly,

As in all cases where one goes away for a long trip, already I find the things that I missed in packing. Unlike those times when I have been sent about on land however, I find no chance to walk to a nearby store and purchase what I have left at home. Alas one of the things that I forgot was my razor, and so I have been forced to grow a beard that you would not recognize me in. I have considered striking up a friendship with some member of the crew simply so that I might borrow his razor, but the crew avoids us reporters, I suspect under order of their captain. Happily I remembered the scissors that I generally use to trim my mustache, so at least it is a well maintained beard. As we are now in Indianapolis I suppose that I might find myself a razor here, but I have no wish to spend money unnecessarily. I remember that Willie used to cry when he would see a beard when he was a baby, and I can only hope that Edna does not suffer from the same fear. When I see you again, I would like to hug you all, and I would hate to have to find some means of shaving before I can hold her.

Have you gone to see my father yet? I would be very grateful if you would look in on him every once in a while. He is growing older, and so long as he refuses to come and live with us, I will worry about him. Perhaps you could bring him food every so often. I realize that our budget is tight, but I feel that his diet of cheap restaurants will harm his health. Please be patient with him as well, I am certain he is going to be unpleasant about me taking this job against his wishes, but it is only because he thinks that I will be in danger, and worries about me. I will write to him again, and assure him that I am fine, but it would help if you added your voice to mine. I am lucky to find a job that pays so well, and I wish that he would only be happy for me.

How are Willie and Edna? I wish that you would write me, and let me know if Willie has gotten over his cough. Please do not hesitate on account of money to go for a doctor for him. We have money now, certainly money enough to pay the doctor. Also let me know if Mr. Donovan is difficult about my pay. He told me that he would be willing to pay it to you, but after my last employment ended so badly, I am not willing to trust anyone so much.

Give Willie and Edina a hug for me,

Your loving husband,


Airship Defender, Indianapolis


Clipping from the Chicago Eagle

What is the City Hiding?

Our reporter on the airship Defender of Chicago has little news to report, for the reason that he has been restricted access to most of the ship. The Defender, a project funded by the city, as well as by private donations from the business community, has long been suspected by this paper as a source of graft and corruption. It is too common, when private investors on to aid our city in some enterprise, they likely expect something in return for their investment. With the city so silent on who provided the materials for the ships, as well as how it selected the officers that we are entrusting with our safety, this paper fears that we must assume the worst. Under the name of protecting our enterprise from the pirates of the sky, who is to stop them from rampant patronage, if not the free press they have so happily blocked from any access.

I would like to assure our readers that in spite of the city’s best attempts to prevent us from learning the truth, this paper has no intention of ceasing our investigation until we discover the truth of the matter.


A Day in the Life of a Ficus 22

In Which Important Information Has Not Been Shared

Would have been finished sooner, but I was walking 5 miles a day to dogsit for a friend of mine, which took up a large chunk of my free time…pretty much all of it actually, also the dog had permanent halitosis. The next comic may be viewed on the website.

A website:

A Day in the Life of a Ficus 21

In Which Kala is Not a Morning Person

As I am writing this a spider is repeatedly trying to crawl down the back of my neck, there are few creepier feelings in the world. The next comic may be viewed on the website.

A website:

A Day in the Life of a Ficus 20

In Which a Mysterious Figure Displays Unexpected Musical Preferences

You ever think you’ve finished a comic and then realize that you have somehow completely forgotten to add any speech bubbles? No? Maybe I need sleep…the next comic may be viewed on the website.

A website:


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