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Back again for InMon – Bekindrewrite‘s weekly writing challenge. This week I’ve gone with the title of Steph’s inspiring post – Smells like disaster. It’s a little longer than my usual submissions. Let me know what you think …

* * *
Captain Smith left his First Mate in charge on the bridge.

“Number One, what’s that smell?”

“Sorry, captain. I don’t smell anything.”

Smith grunted and went out in to the night air. He looked out from under the canopy at the clear night sky. His breath condensed in the chilly air.

The Hermes cruised on through the night, the engines running at a relaxed pace. Smith rested his arms on the railing and gazed out over the city lights drifting by, slowly, below. Something wasn’t right. He could smell it, he just couldn’t identify the odour.

So far their maiden flight had gone well. They had crossed the English Channel and made Paris by midnight and, using Gustav Eiffel’s new tower as a navigation aid, turned left towards Germany. That was two hours ago. The passengers in the gondola, strapped underneath a million cubic feet of hydrogen, had gone to bed, just the night crew were about. Smith paced about the decks, checking, looking, listening – smelling. Everything seemed to be as it should. But there was still the faint smell that he couldn’t place.

As he got back to the bridge he said, “Situation report, Number One.”

“Engines are good. We are maintaining our course and speed. The engineer reported a loss of pressure in the front section. He has trimmed the others and we are maintaining level flight.”

“Has he located the leak?”

“He said there wasn’t one and he is still trying to find out why pressure dropped. We are coming down to a thousand feet in the mean time.

“Keep me updated.”

“Aye …” A junior rating arrived with a note.

“Well?”

“Sir. Both engines have failed. Engine room are investigating.”

“What is our position and heading? What is the wind speed? Where are we going?”

“I’ll get that for you, sir.”

Captain Smith sat and waited; airship, passengers and crew going where ever nature decided. Once the ship stopped making headway she pitched, yawed and wallowed aimlessly.

“What’s that smell, Number One?”

“What smell, Cap’n?”

“Never mind! Just get us operational!”

“The Engineer is bringing us down another two hundred feet to try and keep gas pressure steady.”

For another hour the Hermes drifted idly. The first mate gave Captain Smith regular updates of their estimated position; Smith studied the charts. He had decided that they needed to beach the ship and was looking for somewhere suitable.

If the calculations were correct, they were heading south, southeast, towards the Alps and 800 feet was insufficient altitude.

“The next city should be Dijon. We need to ditch into the low ground to the south of it. Prepare the crew and passengers.”

As the first streaks of dawn shone over the horizon the silhouette of the city passed by at eye level. Once over open ground the crew threw out two ground anchors to slow the progress. Speed reduced, so the engineer released gas to bring the ship down.

The gondola brushed the tops of the trees, then the bushes. Everyone braced for the crash. The canopy ripped and released the hydrogen, the rapid deflation brought the ship to the ground. Eventually all was still, just the creaking and cracking of framework, glass and panels.

“How are we doing for injuries among the passengers?”

“We lost a couple, sir. A few broken bones, lots of minor injuries. Two crew dead, and injuries. It’s a disaster, Cap’n.”

“Indeed, Number One. That was what I could smell. Disaster.”

“I think that’s field manure, sir …”

* * *

© 2015, K Patrick Moody

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