November 5, 2012 by Steampunkish Graphic Novels
Approaching cruising speed, the crew went about lashing down rigging for the rest of the journey. Stabilizing the elevation of a sailship required a well balanced pulley system that adjusted for sudden changes in the wind, keeping the vessel from swinging or bouncing. Insuring a consistent height in the sky provided comfort and speed for the passengers’ benefit, but there was a hidden reason as well – safety for the crew.
Passengers were not told about the risks involved with being out on the masts.
There was an idiom shared often, taken from the sea: “One hand for yourself and one hand for the ship.” The wind could be deadly if a one wasn’t careful. Many men had perished by ‘the silent death’. It was called ‘silent’ because if one subtracted the noise of the wind, a man falling out into the sky made no sound – even if you saw the expression on his face as he went. When it did happen, those aboard responded by becoming silent as well – a token of respect for the dead. This harsh reality made setting and maintaining the critical balance a chore all crews approached with grave seriousness.
But today the Diane was steady, the winds consistent, and the weather calm. There appeared to be little reason to worry about such things on this charter. On days like this one, the experience above the earth could not be compared to any other – even those of the passengers inside. All crews had a panoramic view of god’s creation, every direction like that from highest mountaintops, as far as the eye could see. Days like these were the reward of their occupation.
A life in another world.
A life among the clouds.
None of these things were on Jacob’s mind, however. Gripping the climbing ropes hand over hand, Jacob moved himself through the ship, smoothly and instinctively. All the pulleys had been double-checked. The crew was at rest. It was time to move on to other interests – such as excusing his way into the passenger cabin. Jacob grinned widely, devising a plan as he climbed towards the hatch.
The environment within Diane’s passenger cabin was windless and calm, insulated against all complaint. While the most well-built modern houses all had their cracks and holes through which air sometimes whistled, such noises didn’t exist in the passenger cabin of a sailship. These rooms were renowned for their plush carpets, velvet seating, well-polished silver and china – and absence of noise. It was its contrast to sooty, loud and smelly trains which made sailship travel highly desireable – and this reputation was preserved at all costs.
The woman Jacob had directed to the Diane looked out of the cabin’s porthole glass, thinking about the young man outside. Jacob was younger than she, that was for certain, but not much younger. She thought about him up there, his unkempt, wind-swept hair flipping about as he moved through the ropes. He was handsome, and the recent memory his forward manner and self-assured cockiness made a smirk cross her lips.
The other passengers were settling in as well, whether watching the shoreline outside or striking up lively conversation. It was a happy, cheerful atmosphere. Children were on board as well, discovering the different features of the vessel – brass railings to touch, crystal knobs to turn, and unlocked cabinets to investigate.
On the other side of the cabin were the gentlemen onboard, striking up conversations of their own about business, sports and other interests. Among these gentlemen were two similarly dressed individuals, sitting quietly. One browsed through a newspaper while the other, a book. For a brief moment they simultaneously turned to where she stood gazing out the window. They glanced at each other and returned to their reading.