Stealth Flight

Part I

The maid hurried along the docks of Port Babbage with her empty basket. She kept her eyes downcast and moved aside with a bobbed curtsey for each man and woman that passed her, no matter how they were dressed.

She stopped at the Fishmonger's stall and inspected the cod. The Fishmonger greeted her and announced proudly that he had just received a fresh catch of Wiggyfish that morning.

She smiled and said softly, "Ah no, but thank ya kindly sir. My Lord and Lady of Argylle prefer the cod, sir. They are Caledon born an' bred. They've never taken ta tha Wiggyfish."

The Fishmonger gave her a scowl the minute she mentioned the word "Caledon" and suddenly the maid's eyes flicked up from the ground and fixed directly on his. He felt cowed, and yet he could not say why on God's Green Earth he should feel that way when dealing with a common housemaid. Her dark brown eyes pinned him under her gaze as she said in a light tone, "Coppers is coppers sir. I kin take mine elsewhere if ya like."

His demeanor changed as he apologized and wrapped the cod, all the while feeling nervous under her direct, commanding stare. He looked relieved when she thanked him and moved along. He was watching her walk away and feeling utterly baffled at how she had made him feel, when suddenly....BOOM!!

A massive explosion rocked the Port. It rumbled and shook, and the Fishmonger's stall collapsed, as did several other less-sturdy buildings of nondescript nature all along the docks.

The Fishmonger lay stunned under a pile of Wiggyfish for a moment, and then crawled out from under it and slowly stood up on his shaky legs. The maid was picking herself up off of the dock about 10 feet away from him and staring out across the water, directly at Doctor Obolensky's Observatory. He looked and saw, even at the long distance, smoke pouring out of its windows.

"Ah, merde!!", exclaimed the maid. Then she turned and ran as fast as she could down the docks, leaving her basket of cod behind. The baffled Fishmonger watched her disappear into the fog of swirling plaster and stone dust.


Part II

"Merde, merde, MERDE!!"

I hadn't stopped swearing since right after the explosion. I kept running until I reached the Fishing Trawler with the New Toulouse Fleur de Lys on its hull moored at the pier in Clockhaven. I practically tumbled aboard. "We can go now. Back to New Toulouse. God DAMN it."

Mr. Breitman looked at me calmly. Luckily he is used to listening to me vent and rant. He did not say a word as he watched me kick the side of the boat. "No problem Miz Gabi, provided you don't kick a hole in the boat first."

I sat down and buried my head in my hands. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry. This is just...a really big deal." Mr. Breitman nodded, but did not say anything. He then starting preparing the boat for departure.

Two hours later, after I had drunk several glasses of L'Absinthe Spiritueux, I came out of the cabin and sat by Mr. Breitman in his position at the wheel.

"Thank you," I said. "Thank you for agreeing to sail to New Babbage with me, no questions asked."

"You're welcome Miz Gabi. I figured if I needed to know, then you would tell me.", he replied. "I know you get crazy ideas in your head sometimes, and it's best to just leave you alone and let you run with them."

I sighed. "I wish this were a crazy idea. But... damn, it's just...bad. This could cause serious problems for...someone...somewhere....", I trailed off.

Mr. Breitman impassively watched the waves and guided the Trawler with ease.

"You have lived in New Toulouse now for several years," I said to him. "Have you ever heard the Legend of Pierre O'Toole?"

"Hmm," Mr. Breitman pondered. "I don't think so."

"The Toulouse Oldbies are probably aware of it. It's something that they probably heard from their parents. Or grandparents.", I said. I took a deep breath and said, "I can tell it to you.".


The Legend of Pierre O'Toole

About a hundred years ago, in 1790, a man named Pierre O'Toole arrived in New Toulouse from France. He claimed have been an assistant to the Montgolfier Brothers in the early to mid 1780's. It was hard to take him seriously though, as his standard state was one of total intoxication. Half Irish. Half French. All soused.*

Pierre told anyone who would listen that his dream was to outdo Les Frères Montgolfiers. He was going to develop some sort of super balloon, and take it to...the Moon. It was not long before the citizens of New Toulouse were calling him "Mad Pierre". They laughed whenever he started rambling about his Moon Machine and the special fuel he was trying to develop for it. "Ben oui Pierre! Tu vas aller à la lune!"

This is the routine for years. Mad Pierre gets drunk and starts talking about his trip to the moon. Everybody laughs at him. Until...

One day, nine years later, Pierre bursts into Lafitte's in the middle of the afternoon, sober. "J'ai le carburant! J'ai le carburant!" (I have the fuel) He grabs the bartender, Georges Hax by the hand and starts dancing around. Then he orders drinks for everyone and proceeds to get rip roaring drunk. Everyone laughs at Pierre, except for Georges. He has served Pierre for many a year, and Georges thinks he seems different this time. Georges slips out the back of Lafitte's while Pierre and the Taloosters enjoy their drunken revels.

He heads for Pierre's house to see if there is any truth to what Pierre is saying. No one locked their doors in NT, so he walk right in...and finds a massive still in the middle of what should have been the Parlour. There are bottles and bottles, stacked on barrels and barrels...and they are all full, of something. There is also a desk covered with papers full of notes and calculations.

Georges takes one of the bottles and uncorks it. He sniffs it. Then he carefully takes a small taste...and immediately feels the warm rush of a happy buzz. The drink in the bottles is stronger than anything he has ever had before, and it didn't taste too badly. So he takes it, and a few other bottles back to Lafitte's.

Georges starts serving the drink at Lafitte's, calling it Mad Pierre's Moon Juice. It's the ultimate NT party drink! Georges doesn't tell anyone what it is, but serves it up at Lafitte's nightly. NT has never seen such wild debauchery before! They partied like it was 1799...in part because it was. Georges begins to lift bottles from Pierre's house daily. The inventory begins to shrink.

Mad Pierre gets, well, mad when he discovers that Georges Hax has stolen, drank and served at least half of his fuel stash. Pierre flies into a drunken rage and tells everyone at Lafitte's that he is going to hide his fuel where no one will ever find it. he storms out while the Moon Juice party continues. Hours later in the middle of the night, Mad Pierre is returning from...somewhere...when he slips on the levee and drowns in the Missedabracket.

Mad Pierre became a legend overnight. People wondered, did he hide his Moon Juice? If he did, where? Was there any left after Georges Hax stole so much of it? Had it really been a special fuel, or just the best drink that the Taloosters had ever had? Did it even exist in the first place or was this just some bar tale? Rumors. Counter-rumors. Over the years, it became part of the lore of New Toulouse.


Mr. Breitman remained quiet for a moment after I finished the story. "Well,", he said, "That's quite a story. What does it have to do with me sailing you over to New Babbage on some secret mission?"

I sighed. "I need you to keep this part of our conversation completely confidential. What I am about to tell you is something that only the leaders of New Toulouse have known for the last one hundred years. Mama Cree shared it with me. She and I are the only living people that know about this."

"Mad Pierre's stash of Moon Juice actually *does* exist. Pierre was true to his word. He hid it where no one could find it. After Pierre died, all of his notes and calculations were sent to the New Toulouse Library. The Librarian found his map to the location of the stash, and took it to the Mayor. The information has passed from leader to leader ever since."

"Another item that has passed from leader to leader, was an empty bottle of the Moon Juice. Proof that it really did exist. I kept the bottle in my secret safe, along with some other important personal and state secrets from both Caledon and New Toulouse. Three days ago, I went to place something in the safe...and I found it open. Only the bottle of Moon Juice was missing. And on the side of the safe, a smudge of purple paint."

"I knew immediately who had stolen the Moon Juice. My contacts from New Babbage had recently reported to me that Doctor Obolensky has doused the entire city-state in purple paint. I do not know how he even found out about Mad Pierre's Moon Juice, let alone how he snuck into my home and opened my safe..."

I shivered, thinking of that evil man in my home.

"I had to verify that the culprit was Obolensky, as I suspected. An under cover mission was necessary. Thus, you sailing me to New Babbage. Unfortunately, I received the answer I was seeking. Obolensky set off an extremely powerful explosion in the Port while I was there."

"There were only fumes left in that bottle, and it caused an extraordinary amount of damage. He must be planning something that requires VERY high powered explosives...and he must want to know where the stash of Moon Juice is."

I looked at Mr. Breitman then.

"I will never reveal the location of the remainder of Mad Pierre's Moon Juice. Ever. I do not know what Obolensky is planning, but I do know that he intends to cause some serious damage."

"What are you going to do?", asked Mr. Breitman. I looked out over the water. I could see the lights of New Toulouse in the distance.

"I do not know. I will just have to remain aware and alert. I will be at the Robber-Baron Ball this Saturday, 21 May from 6-9pm SLT, representing New Toulouse. I will see what I can learn while I am there."

Alert and aware. I can not let Obolensky get away with whatever he is planning.



* - credit for this sentence goes to Doctor Obolensky :-)

Comments

Azul said…
*grins and settles in for the ride*