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Chapter 1: Death of a Legend
A full moon illuminates a cloudless black night sky. A sixty foot long wooden hulled airship floats lazily in front of the moon; its ninety foot cigar shaped helium filled gasbag holds the double decked airship secure against the aether. Below, the city of Baltimore sleeps in the late night hours. The March winds blow steadily and the airship’s propellers twirl lazily keeping the ship at its station.
‘All hands, attention’ says Captain Turner. The portly thirty year old man strokes his thin close cropped beard before thrusting out his chest and both chins.
The airmen stand around in their sky blue uniforms staring expectantly at the Captain and the taller, muscular man beside him. A cool wind blows across the smooth wooden deck.
‘I know we have not been together long, but, I have been given an important task tonight and I am sure you men will acquit yourself admirably. I should hate to have anyone figure poorly in my report’ he says in a thin voice.
‘Ah, beggin’ the Captain’s pardon, but, what are we doing floating above an empty rail station?’
‘I’m glad you asked, Midshipman. There is a train due to arrive shortly carrying an important cargo. The USS Cerberus has been ordered to provide escort and see the train safely from Baltimore to Washington, DC.’
‘A train at this hour? Should we run out the guns or be on the lookout for English airships; seems too far inland for those boys’
‘Ah, good questions. Commander Whyte will handle the details of the mission and your preparations. I will be leaving him in charge, but, I have every confidence in all of you’ says Captain Turner before walking across the deck and entering the upper deck and his elegantly furnished Captain’s Cabin.
The muscular man straightens the white cuffs of his dark blue uniform jacket and picks imaginary lint from the gold braid of his sleeves before turning to the airmen.
‘Now, let’s stop polishing the brass and get to your stations. Midshipman Hampton, have your crews man the port and starboard gatling guns. Jefferson, I need you in the Crow’s Nest, shout out when you see the train arrive. I am not sure what manner of threat the USS Cerberus is suppose to guard against, but, I want all of us prepared for any threat. Hopefully, this will prove to be quiet night’s sailing and we’ll be able back at the airfield by morning’ says the Commander.
‘Commander Whyte, sir. Any chance we will be back at the airfield in time to attend the ten year celebration?’
‘Let’s hope so, Midshipman. I do believe my daughter’s beau has finally worked up the nerve to ask for her hand in marriage. It will do my heart good to know she will be well provided for’
‘Ah, Midshipman Jones, sir? He is a good match for Miss Pearl, if I may be so bold. I only mean that he is a fine young officer with a good future in the Aeronautical Corps ahead of him, sir’ says Midshipman Hampton. The young man looks down at the holy stone polished deck and absently rubs the back of his neck beneath his black hair.