Thursday, December 23, 2010

Captain Ross. . .continued

Araminta Ross continued, “Something’s afoot alright, but especially just here at the northern border. Or do you really think that the King Jesus just happened to be in the neighbourhood?” Captain Ross narrowed her eyes. “We’ve been playing hide-and-seek with them for weeks. Wish I knew what they are up to.”
“You know the Cherokee don’t like to volunteer information to outsiders. I doubt they’ll say anything more to me than to you.”
“You just use some of that famous Captain Willie charm on them and see if they don’t warm-up to you.” Captain Ross stood up and offered her right hand. “Good luck to you and your crew.” She waved Captain Willie out of the alcove, taking a notebook out of one of the multitude of pockets on her tunic-dress as she turned away from him.

The tiny man who had guided Captain Willie to Captain Ross’ alcove mysteriously reappeared despite not having been summoned (at least not by any method that Willie knew). Just to break the silence Captain Willie made an attempt at conversation.
“What’s your name and are you doin’ here?”
“This way out,” gestured the small man and turned away. He glanced back over his shoulder and said, “They call me Little James. Come on now! Down this latter.”
“This ain’t the same way we came in.”
“No, it’s quicker. We’ve outa here as soon as you are off this airship.”

After navigating a bewildering maze of bulkheads, cargo nets hanging from the ceiling and boxes containing godknowswhat, Captain Willie was back at the hatch and heading down the rope-ladder.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Repercussions, 1712-1717

"Those who fell victim to the slavers were usually shipped to distant colonies to spend their days laboring for others with no hope of returning to their families and homes. Not that they passively accepted their condition: in several colonies the variously termed "Southern" or "Spanish" or "Carolina" Indians earned a reputation as troublemakers and instigators, leading several provincial governments to bar their importation. Noth that it mattered: in a few years South Carolina so alienated its [Indian] allies that they banned together in a pan-Indian movement that ended the large-scale slaving of native peoples."
(pages 257-258)
Gallay, Alan in The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-1717. Yale University Press, 2002.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Captain Ross

The small man guided Captain Willie across the deck and into a tiny alcove behind a hanging curtain where Captain Ross was waiting for him.

Araminta Ross was a no-nonsense woman and this fact showed in her clothing as well. Her hair was neatly confined by a mustard-yellow printed cotton scarf. Her tunic-dress buttoned up the front, its rich wine red a complement to her beautiful, brown skin. Her eyes glistened with intelligence as well as a pent-up fierceness. Indeed her tiny stature could hardly contain her enormous presence. She rose from her seat as Captain Willie entered the room (more of a cubbyhole really since even a large airship has limited space) and motioned him towards the only other fold-out chair. It was attached to the wall with hinges and folded-down into a seat when a latch was unhooked.

A crewmember carried in a tray containing dinner for two as well as pewter dishes instead of the more commonplace tin ones used on the Sandflea. He unfolded the legs of the tray so that it formed a little table and placed it between the two captains. Dinner consisted of a stew of pork, rice, black-eyed peas and celery seasoned with vinegar and hot pepper.

“I thought you might appreciate a hot meal and a chance to catch your breath.”

Captain Ross ate her dinner quickly and methodically in contrast to Captain Willie who savoured every bite of a good meal. She glanced down at her empty plate and patted her lips with a napkin.

“What was your man carrying?”
Willie shrugged. “Just timetables and such for goods drop-off, mostly saltpetre. Old Toby is a stoner dude but he’s usually able to get across the border without being caught. After reporting in to the Border Station we’re on our way down to Charleston for major maintenance and looking to add some additional crew members.”
“Watch yourself and don’t even think about flying anywhere near the border. Those Virginians will be watching and waiting for you to slip-up. A rogue air current blows you off course and next thing you know, you are far enough into Virginia that they have the excuse they need to blow you out of the sky!”
“I know what I’m doin’,” answered Captain Willie mildly.
“Oh, I am certain that you do!” chuckled Captain Ross. “I’ve heard more than a few tales about you and your crew.”
Captain Willie just smiled, albeit a bit smugly.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Aboard the King Jesus

With the US airship safely out of Carolina airspace, the captains of the two CFS airships could meet in person. Captain Willie climbed down the rope ladder extending from the forward hatch. While still hanging onto the ladder, he fired his grapple gun at the matching rope ladder hanging from the King Jesus. One of the hooks caught the rope and in a flash he had pulled it over. Through a series of deft acrobatic moves worthy of a master trapeze artist, he transferred himself onto the King Jesus’ ladder and scrambled up it and into the open hatch. He was fit and strong and could easily pull himself through its opening.

Once onboard, Captain Willie was met by a small, dark man with an enormous set of dreads sprouting in all directions. He had enormous pearl earings in each ear as well as a gold incisor that flashed when he spoke. Captain Willie’s ensemble was scarcely less colourful since he was wearing his usual get-up of purple trousers, a brightly patterned paisley silk shirt and brocade vest. In contrast to the colourfulness of the rest of his attire, his Indian-made moccasins were quite conservative. Their soft, flexible soles were more suited to climbing rope ladders. In contrast to his flamboyant greeter, his head was clean-shaven and he wore no jewelry.

The tiny man viewed Captain Willie somewhat suspiciously.
“Captain Ross wants to talk with you.”
“Yeah, that’s the idea.” Willie grimaced to himself. Why state the obvious?
“Let’s get on with it then.”

As they climbed the metal ladder to the command deck, Captain Willie had plenty of time to reflect on the differences between the rough and tumble ship he captained and the fleet’s flagship. Naturally the ship was larger, although it was still quite crowded due to the supplies she carried as well as having a larger crew.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


“Now we’re gonna see some shit” muttered Captain Willie.

“Your intrusion into Carolina airspace is provocative. Leave now! Remain and you will be committing an act of deliberate aggression.” Even distorted by the megaphone, the menace in Captain Ross’ voice was undeniable.

The US airship was a heavy cruiser but the King Jesus was a full-fledged battleship. Her grapple guns were supplemented by two Belgian mitrailleuse guns, on mounted on either side of her bow. The crew of the Sandflea held their collective breath. The King Jesus held its position above the much smaller Sandflea. Captain Araminta Ross was not bluffing!

There was silence for several long minutes as the 3 airships bobbed slightly in the airstream. Soon the sun would rise high enough to dissipate the morning mist. Meanwhile, the captain of the US airship apparently reached a decision. Without any more discussion the airship slowly rotated as her thrusters on the port side released a burst of steam while the starboard thrusters remained silent. After doing a somewhat ponderous 180 degree turn she rose majestically into the air, no doubt in order to avoid the unpredictable gusts of wind that could bash her against the rock face.

Suddenly the tension was broken by a sea of voices.

“That woman is crazy. What does she think she’s doing, taking that big ole warship this far into the mountains? What’s she gonna do next?” Willie’s tone of voice betrayed his admiration for Araminta Ross even as he voiced scepticism of her judgement.

“I don’t care who she thinks she is, she’ll get us all killed with her antics.”

“She knows what she is doing. Remember, Captain Ross was enslaved by these people and knows how they think. They’d see the slightest sign of compromise as a sign of weakness.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Border-crossing chapter 3

There was a hue and a cry on the ground in the direction from which the Sandflea had just come. The Patrollers tracking Old Toby had now come to the clearing where he’d intercepted the Sandflea. Since there was no sign that he’d continued further along the ground, the logical place to search for him was the sky. They flashed their lanterns in patterns that were no doubt meant to attract the attention of one of their border patrol airships.

Captain Willie had hoped that the prevailing wind would blow them to the west, thus allowing them to float back towards Carolina and over the border in near silence. This trick had worked well in the past but this time their luck was not so good. The crew of the Sandflea could hear the sound of propellers, still in the distance, but no doubt coming to investigate.

“Shit!” yelled Old Toby, “They’re onto us. We gotta get outta here now!”

Captain Willie grunted to himself. “Maybe we just hand you over to them and then the matter is closed.”

“Kennia, secure our “guest” and his packages,” snapped Tira. This will be a very interesting ride and we don’t want anything getting damaged. At least not anything worth a damn.” She looked pointedly at Old Toby.

He took the hint and scrambled towards the sleeping area in the back section of the ship. This section was hardly large enough or comfortable enough to call by the name crew quarters but it was the closest to such that she had. Old Toby hopped more than climbed into one of the lowest hanging hammocks and pulled the safety straps tight over his torso.

Meanwhile, back in the Engine Room, Captain Willie took the wheel while Kennia slipped the bundles of papers into canvas pockets attached to the cabin wall.

“Dump ballast!” shouted Captain Willie. “Try to rise over this next ridge. Then we can descend again and play a bit of hide and seek.” Slipping between rock formations and dodging attempts to capture her was an old trick for the crew of the Sandflea. Normally, though, she would be carrying her engineer and at least one gunner in addition to the captain, Tira and Kennia. What a time to be short-handed!

If the border patrol airship managed to overtake the Sandflea, it could easily grapple and board her. Because the Sandflea specialized in stealth, she was not heavily armed. That didn’t mean she didn’t have more than a few surprises for anyone who might try boarding her!

Evasive manoeuvres is a relative term for an airship. Even the most lightweight craft is ponderous in its movements. The Sandflea had propellers and retractable airfins.  Ideally, though, her crew used a combination of her thrusters and airfins to steer her movements subtly. The airfins were not only retractable but could also be manipulated by a series of levers to function in much the same manner as a fish’s fins. With a skilled hand at the controls the Sandflea could glide through the air almost as effectively as a fish in water.

The air currents in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains were tricky. They could provide lift but could just as easily fling the airship against a cliff. In fact this close to the mountain range, Captain Willie would have preferred a much gentler flight plan! The Sandflea lofted over the ridges on the up currents, her captain’s hands and feet working the complex set of levers, knobs and foot pedals that controlled her like a true master. The Sandflea was small and her captain was highly skilled at evasive manoeuvring but she didn’t have the engine-power behind her propellers that the larger patrol ship had. Sooner, rather than later, it would catch-up with her and capture her.

The Virginia Border Patrol cruiser had a more powerful engine than the little Sandflea but her captain and crew weren’t nearly as experienced in stealth tactics. The warships usual tactic was, as with her maritime counterparts, to draw alongside her opponents and bombard them with her cannons until they surrendered and could be boarded. Worse case scenario, the cannons blew the other ship out of the sky. Hide and seek wasn’t her forté. Still she was gaining on the smaller airship.

Onboard the Sandflea Kennia handed out parachutes to the other crew members and told them, “If we go down and survive the crash, everyone head off in a different direction. The Cherokee will send a patrol to investigate the crash. Hopefully at least one of us will intercept them and can report what happened.”

Back in the crew quarters, unable to see what was happening, Old Toby was gripping this mesh of his hammock until his knuckles were way past being white even though he’d already tightened the straps that held him in until he was practically immobilised.

At the controls Captain Willie muttered curses under his breath.

The other ship was almost within grappling range, assuming that her captain wished to take the crew alive. A few well-aimed shots and their lives would be forfeit. Worst case scenario would be a hit to the airbags. Aside from the gas leaking out and the ship losing buoyancy, the hydrogen contained in them was highly flammable. Airships were too valuable to destroy unnecessarily, though. Better to capture an airship by shooting grapples at the hull and reeling her in, much as in whale hunting.

Suddenly a massive shape arose out of the morning mist. It was a heavy cruiser and her gunports were wide-open!

The captain of the new ship shouted through a megaphone, “This is Captain Araminta Ross of the CFS King Jesus. You have crossed into Carolina. Begone quickly or we will open fire!”

“Captain Ross, we did not intend to intrude into Carolina territory. We are pursuing criminals and wish only to apprehend them and return them to our justice. Hand them over and this problem will be resolved!” shouted the other ship’s captain in response.

“Unacceptable!” was the only answer. The King Jesus glided forward over the much smaller Sandflea like a mother bear protecting her cubs.

(Next chapter: Stand off)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Character sketch: Old Toby

Old Toby was a bit of a mystery. No one knew much of anything for certain about his background and no one really wanted to know either. He had always been known as Old Toby although his age could have been anywhere between 35-60. His skin might have been a dusty grey-brown, aged from years of exposure, but that might simply have been the result of going at least 20 years without bathing. Kennia wondered sometimes what would happen if he were suddenly thrust under a spigot. He would probably dissolve she figured. Certainly his clothing would since the dirt was about all that held the garments together.

His slouch hat was some indeterminate shade of green-grey-brown with lank, greasy strands of black and grey streaked hair hanging out from under it. The collar to his oversized buckskin jacket turned up to meet his hat while his boots came up to the jacket’s bottom fringe. Old Toby radiated a certain odour of stale ganja smoke. This was hardly surprising since ganja was his preferred payment for services rendered. These services were numerous and varied and many may have been of questionable legality although Old Toby insisted that he had never done time in prison.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Border-crossing chapter 2

A few minutes later they had recovered and climbed the latter to the main section of the airship so Tira could report the recent events to the Captain. Captain Willie James was a large, dark-skinned man with closely cropped hair and the world’s longest eyelashes.

The first words out of his mouth were, “What is that man still doing on my ship? He had better be a paying passenger because he sure as hell ain’t no cargo.”
“And what about his package, Tira? I don’t see any sign of it!” interrupted Kennia. She was in charge of contraband, mysterious substances and packages.
Old Toby snorted, “Yeah, I got it right here, “ and patted his vest. It rustled in response. Kennia stuck-out her right hand. “I’ll take it then, if you please sir.”

Old Toby wriggled out of the aforementioned garment and deftly began producing a series of paper-stuffed envelops with almost comical gyrations as he twisted and turned it to reach the different hidden pockets. Kennia patiently collected each from him.
“Package delivered in full and on time,” snapped Old Toby. “Feel free to just kick me outta the hatch now. Not like ya need me for nothin’ now that the Patrollers are on to me!”

Captain Willie ignored him and turned to Kennia, “What’s he got for us this time?”
Kennia sorted through the packets and shrugged, “just the usual. New dates and times for deliveries. Most of this is of no use to us. If there is a leak in the pipeline, we’ll have to reschedule everything and change all our passwords.”
“Including the saltpetre deliveries?”
“Especially them.”
“Lotta folks at headquarters are not gonna be happy about this,” Captain Willie turned away in disgust. He pointed at Old Toby, “oh, and you’re coming with us to explain in person, old man!”
“Oh, no I’m not! I’m just the deliveryman. I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ and I don’t wanna go with y’all any further than I have to.”

“Somehow I don’t remember anyone asking you if you wanted to follow along,” smirked Kennia. “Besides, the further you are from the Border, the safer you are from Patrollers. We’re not the only folks skulking about where we shouldn’t be.”
“He doesn’t want to enter Cherokee Country is all,” said Tira. “Old Toby here is scared witless of Indians.” She laughed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Sandflea makes a border-crossing

The year according to European reckoning is 1855. The thick summer twilight was disturbed by the sound of a propeller. The airship came in low over the tree line without snagging any branches and then hovered over a clearing. A hatch sprung open on the underbelly of the ship and a rope ladder fell down from the opening. Quickly a slight figure climbed down the ladder and then hung there, one foot on the lowest rung and one arm slung over a higher rung. The figure peered into the surrounding woods as it hung about 4 feet above the ground.

Her propeller stilled, the small airship drifted slightly but was far enough into the open to not be in danger of entanglement. Suddenly, a solitary figure dashed into the clearing.
“Tira?” he whispered. “That you? You’ve gotta take me with ya. They’re on to me.”
Tira hissed down at him, “What in hell is the matter with you? You know we can’t do that!”
“They’re onto me, Tira. I’m dead and done for if ya don’t get me outta here. I don’t need to go far, just a bit over the border and then a bit, just to be sure. Ya can let me off anywhere.”

In the time he took to tell his tale, the man had gasped and panted his way across the field and to the bottom of the dangling rope ladder. Tira sighed as she stretched forth her free hand and grasped his arm as he struggled to pull himself up the rope ladder.
“Up ya go then. But you can explain to Captain Willie just why you don’t have his supplies.”

A bloodhound bellowed in the woods entirely too close for comfort.
“Told ya they were hot on my trail!”
“Up, up, up,” yelled Tira in the direction of the hatch. She turned to her unexpected passenger, “Climb on up then. I’ll be right behind ya!”

Tira waited until the man had scrambled up the ladder and through the hatch before starting her own ascent. Meanwhile, the bloodhound’s bellowing was becoming louder and more excited.
“Get us up and outta here now!” she howled. “I’m on my way!”

Once safely in the belly of the craft, Tira lay on the floor, practically on top of the man in the crowded crawl-space. Her shipmate pulled hard on a lever that closed the mechanical hatch door and then sealed it. Kennia jerked her thumb in the general direction of the man lying crumpled on the floor, still trying to catch his breath.
"Who's the extra weight? And where's the package?"
Tira shrugged, "This is Old Toby. He was supposed to deliver the package and then some but doesn't seem to be doin' too well just now." She pressed her lips tightly together. This trip was dangerous, crossing the Carolina border into neighboring Virginia and now the risk was for nothing. Captain Willie was really going to love that!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CFS Sandflea

The year according to European reckoning is 1855. The Airship Sandflea serves a purpose half-way between scoutship and privateer. Officially she does not exist and thus has no registration number. Her crew of four persons is arrogant and ruthless and specializes in acts of espionage och the occasional act of air piracy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Because the Yamasee War squelched further westward expansion during the early 18th century, as well as removing the lucrative Carolina colony from the control of the British, the remaining colonies were careful to stay on good terms with the mother country. Virginia was especially vulnerable because of the tobacco farmers use of Africans as slave labor. Although the colonists did not fight a war for independence during the 1770s, they sought and, over the space of several decades, received autonomy from direct control of Great Britain in much the same manner as Canada.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CFS 1855

The year according to European reckoning is 1855. Nearly a century and a half has passed since the Yemasee Wars that liberated Carolina from its colonizers, eliminated slavery in the territory, and established its current boundaries. Airships patrol the northern and southern borders, letting through runaway slaves from the United States of America, and keeping out border raiders from the remaining Spanish, French and British colonies as well as the slave-catching patrols from the US. The Shawnee Confederation, founded by Tecumseh, lies to the west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

A Triple Heritage

I live in Ulricehamn, Sweden since 1995 and so I sometimes get questions about my background and how/why I live here instead of in South Carolina. The people who want to ramble on about "Swedish-fantasy-USA" I just blow-off since I can't be bothered with their nonsense. No, I don't own a cowgirl outfit, don't run-about yelling "Yee haw!" and have somehow misplaced my giant paper bag of $100 dollar bills. There are, of course, other people who are asking meaningful questions about what life was like there.

However, when I say that my cultural heritage comes equally from west African, Native American and European cultures, I sometimes am met with dead silence. In one instance the family I was visiting reacted as though I had said something incredibly vulgar. In all fairness, many more people react with interest and want to hear about all these cultures, but the old colonial fable about "going forth into the wilderness and taming the savages" is still alive and kicking in people's subconscious.

Monday, April 12, 2010

No Fate 2010-04-12

“. . .colonial officials also began to fear that their policy of promoting conflicts among the southeastern Indians might backfire and evoke a widespread rebellions. As early as 1705, Governor Moore was warned by the Cherokees to desist from the ‘trade of Indians or slave making’ and return to ‘the trade for skins and furs.’” However, Moore and Carolina did not heed the warning, and in 1715, the Creeks and Yamasees grew so ‘Dissatisfied with the Traders’ that they determined to ‘fall on the Settlement.’ They almost destroyed Carolina.”

Martin, Joel W. “Indians and the English Trade in Skins and Slaves” In The Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South 1521-1704. The University of Georgia Press, 1994.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yemassee War

This gives a brief explanation of the Yemassee War: but doesn't address the importance of slavery as a cause of the conflict.

Alternate History

Alternate history by definition requires a certain amount of fictionalising. We cannot possibly know precisely what "might have been" but we can extrapolate from what we do know (or think we know!) about the past. Remember though, that we are constantly rediscovering, rethinking, reanalysing history.  I will try to make very clear which material in my blog is documented history and which material is my own conjecture. If you read something that seems problematic (and you will!), PLEASE comment and tell me! I hope we all can learn from this experience.