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:

A Day in the Life of a Ficus 19

In Which Some Inventive Tortures Are Described at Length

My laptop hard drive died and took a nearly completed comic with it. This left me to have adventures in the real world for the better part of a month whilst it was fixed, mostly in the form of staring contests with random farmyard animals, which has lead me to the firm belief that cows can see into your soul…The next comic may be viewed on the website.

A website:

A Day in the Life of a Ficus 18

In Which Many Furious Mutterings May Be Heard

When looking to start a war properly one need look no further than Groucho Marx. The next comic may be viewed on the website.

A website:


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