A Brief History of Airships
. . . fanfiction inspired by Guilty Gear XX. Standard disclaimers apply.
May had wanted to be an engineer, as badly as most little girls wanted ponies and pink curtains and dress-up dolls. Ever the tomboy, she revelled in this small rebellion. She put on overalls; she kept a yellow memo pad full of pencil diagrams, arcane circles and lines only she understood. She dreamed about the cavernous interior of engine rooms, and the thrill of balancing on cross-beams, jumping across giant, spinning fans. It was a carnival to her, one huge carousel ride, being lifted up with her skirts full of air and flying -
May wasn't sure if she had wanted to be a pirate. She hadn't planned it - her life just skipped one day, like hitting a bad scratch on a gramophone record. The static whine stayed in her head forever, but over the years had been reduced to just that - a loud, angry noise, her brain blanked out and filled with feedback. She hardly thought about it nowadays; she was young, and apt to forget.
In the wake of her displacement, salvation had come in the form of an airship and its captain balanced on a wingtip. Johnny, he introduced himself, coat-tails swirling in the turbulence.
"What's your name?" he'd asked her.
"I don't know," she said. And she really didn't; she couldn't remember.
"It's alright," he said, unfazed. "I'll call you May." He broke into his cocksure grin. It was the first time she had ever seen it, and her little girl heart was sold forever.
The sound of gunshots rang in her head.
"Are you coming along, then?"
"May is going with you," she said. She took his hand and never looked back.
Life had fallen into a strange, if otherwise pleasant rhythm, thereafter. It was hard work being a pirate - learning to work an airship from the bottom up was difficult, but afterwards she fell asleep, and dreamnt, and the days passed. There was time for drawing in her new memo pad, and now there were books for her to read: books with proper diagrams, all neat blue lines, so thin and close they blurred and almost made her cry trying to understand them. Johnny explained these were real airship blueprints, and she drank them up, greedily, her small, hungry fingers tracing the labyrinth of lines until they burned in afterimage when she closed her eyes. However much she loved her picturebooks, she never told Johnny the best airships were in her drawing pad, all squiggles and uneven arcs.
Through all this, her wish was granted, in part. Being a pirate was so very very close to an engineer, at least, what she had imagined of it, that it hardly mattered to her. Besides, pirating was more fun, and you learnt more things, she reasoned, what with the food and the company and sailing through clouds and Johnny's smile when she piped up with the exact co-ordinates promptly, the map grids and cloud atlas turning in her head like so many cross-section diagrams.
Presently, her hands rested on the steering wheel. They were cruising, clouds unraveling lazily, and rolling past. Above the hum of the engines - a comforting sound - she heard a familiar laugh, and she turned, saw Johnny helping Dizzy with the rigging of the masts. His broad, scarred hands grasped the rope easily; Dizzy was laughing as well, so many silver windchimes. May ran her hands across the spokes of the wheel. She thought about airships, all bright, silver hulls and proud figureheads, all wings and undone hair. Her mind sketched the first lines of a technical diagram, branching filaments, dividing and melting into each other.
Johnny walked past her, smiling as he did. "Good job, May," he said. A captain making the rounds. He ruffled her hair; it was a thoughtless gesture, a careless affection. She squawked, more out of habit than surprise, and he dutiful righted her hat. "Keep her steady, yes? There's a good girl." The last sentence was spoken with a paternal gentleness; she wondered if he was addressing her or the Mayship. Most days she couldn't tell.
Summer was at its glorious, final days. May watched Johnny walk on, into the first pink of dusk. The airship bloomed and burst into fire-showers in her mind's eye.