A New Conveyance and A New Acquaintance

Reader, I am terrified. I do not know where I am or what has happened. My pocket watch tells me it is nearly three-thirty in the morning, though I am not sure it is the morning following the afternoon I spent in Sun City. I am not sure of anything.

The last thing I remember was coming out of the leather worker's shoppe. I looked both ways several times before crossing the street, having already had several close calls that day with a cabriolet, a horse, and a two-wheeled velocipede, respectively. Once safely on the opposite side of the street, I decided to take the less-busy route to the next street by walking between the backs of the buildings.

I, of all people, should know the dangers of a young woman alone taking a shortcut through an alley, given the number of copper novels I have read, but my head was full of the sights and sounds of the city, and I was feeling quite confident and grown-up. Foolishly, I believed that nothing bad could happen to me.

The next thing I knew, there was a strong hand gripping the back of my neck, and a foul-smelling cloth was pressed over my face from behind. I tried to scream, but the cloth stifled the sound. I could not pry the hand from over my face. I think I must have dropped my case, but my attacker apparently saw fit to bring it with him wherever he has taken me. And then I remember no more til I woke a few minutes ago with a terrible headache, and a sick feeling in my stomach, though I do not know if that is due to the cloth which was apparently doused with some chemical in order to make me unconscious, or simply because I am so frightened.

I have just peeped out the window, for I am in a very small, mostly bare room, and saw nothing but darkness outside. Then I looked again and saw stars--on a level with my window. At first I thought I must be very high up in a building somewhere, but then I looked down, and there was nothing but darkness there, either. Gradually, I made out something greyish below, like... clouds. That, combined with the dull humming sound, as that of a motor, has convinced me.

I have been kidnapped, and I am now on a dirigible headed who-knows-where with unknown assailants (surely they must number more than the one who took me in the alley) and not a friend in the world to help me!


It is day now, and I have at least a few answers.

After I closed my diary, I tried to distract myself by re-reading some of the periodicals I have saved due to sentimental value: one containing an interview with Jack Winters, one with an article about Saint Anne's, containing an image capture of all the girls who resided there, three or four years ago. But neither the war hero nor the sight of my dear friends at the orphanage could soothe my tormented mind, so I put them away again and lay down on the little cot in which I woke. Sleep did not come for some time, nor should it have, as terrified as I felt! But I must have drifted off at last, for I was woken from stressful dreams by someone shaking my shoulder.

He introduced himself as Jean Baptiste Belleclaire, captain of the Royal Erebos, which is the dirigible I am apparently on. He is rather short with dark hair swept to one side, and a big mustache, and dressed very well in black trousers, a dark green collared shirt, and a velvet waistcoat so deeply purple it is almost black. Clearly his business, whatever it is, is quite prosperous.

"I apologise for the way in which you were brought onto my ship," he said as I sat up and cowered in the furthest corner of the bed, my back against the wall. "Zebediah is known for his discretion, but not necessarily his sensitivity."

I could hardly believe I was able to speak to my captor, but somehow the words came, tremblingly. "Am I to assume this is the name of the man who assaulted me in the alleyway in Sun City?"

"That is correct." I noticed that he spoke with a slight Gallic accent, and wondered what he was doing in the middle of the Amerigonian desert. (Or rather, over it.) "Zebediah Miller is one of my crewmen."

"Why was I brought here? Where are we going?" I asked, still keeping my distance though he seemed quite friendly, and not at all intent on abusing me as would usually happen to the kidnapped young woman in a novel.

"I shall get to that in a moment. For now, would you like some breakfast?"

I eyed him distrustfully. "Why are you treating me as a guest instead of a prisoner?"

"You are a guest," he smiled.

"Then why was I kidnapped? For that matter, how did you even know I would be in Sun City? I have been on a train for a week."

"We have our sources," was all he said, then abruptly changed the subject. "Please, relax, Miss Greenwater." My shock must have shown on my face, for he smiled again and said, "Yes, I know your name. I know much about you. But let me assure you that you will in no way be harmed, nor will you be ill-treated aboard my ship. I give you my word as captain."

"The word of a villain who kidnaps young women and offers no explanation does not mean much to me," I spat, still amazed at my audacity in the face of such a situation. Though I suppose fear and stress are great motivators.

He only chuckled, and turned to the small table which was pushed against the wall near my bed. I flinched at his approach, but he merely removed a cloth from atop a tray to display a plate of food. A few little buns and a couple of sausage links were on a plate, and a small pot of what I assumed to be tea sat next to a cup. "It is not much, but the fare on a dirigible is usually quite simple," he said, almost apologetically.

I was quite hungry, having missed both dinner and supper the previous day, but I would not eat anything he offered me, having no clue if it would knock me unconscious again, or worse. I merely shook my head and stayed where I was.

Again, he laughed. "It is not poison, my dear. Here, I will show you." He broke off a bit of biscuit and chewed it up, then swallowed. "See?" And to further prove his point, he used the fork and knife to cut off a piece of sausage link, which he also ate (with his fingers, so as not to use the fork which was to be mine). Then he poured from the little pot, and asked, "How do you take your coffee?"

"I do not drink it," I replied, trying to ignore how my mouth watered at the sight and smell of the food, even the coffee.

"Well, it is all you will find aboard my ship, unless you favour plain water or hard liquor. I shall put in sugar and milk, so that it will taste less like coffee." He did so as I watched him, then licked the spoon clean and set it aside. "Here, it will help your headache."

"You use that awful stuff often, then?" I asked as he held the cup out to me.

"What awful stuff?"

"On the cloth, that Mr. Miller used when he took me."

"Ah, yes. No, not often," said Captain Belleclaire. "But I am aware of what it does to the head. Here, drink. I give you my word that no one will harm you in any way."

I resisted a minute more, but then the smell even of the coffee became too unbearable, and his smile too kind. I took the cup and sipped from it, and though I burned my mouth, I showed no sign of it, not wishing to display weakness to my captor.

"There, that is better," said the captain. "Eat and refresh yourself, then if you would put on the clothes provided to you, I would be much obliged." He gestured to a pile of colourful garments on a chair behind him.

"What?" I asked. "Why?"

"I will answer all your questions tonight," he said, already starting toward the door. "During the day I am too busy, and the ship is no place for a young woman. I will return after you have your supper and we shall speak. Until then." He touched his forehead in a kind of salute, then backed out of the door.

I waited all of about three seconds, then scrambled out of bed, but found the door locked when I tried it, just as I thought it would be. Defeated and fighting tears, I returned to the table to finish my meal, then sat down to write this. Now I have only to wait for tonight.

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