Springingtiger's Blog

Chapter 7: Zeppelins


When I get back to Obamapolis I must upload my journal to Roddenberry, he thinks I should leave a record before I move on again. I’ve told him I would return, but he says – and he’s right – that just because I haven’t died yet doesn’t mean I never will. I remember one of my wives back on Earth telling me she would not want to live for ever. In my experience however long a person’s life very few want it to end. I suppose on occasion I do feel a little jaded, a little tired, and when I do something always comes along to surprise me or pique my interest.

I think one of the things that always fascinates me about deep space colonisation is that after the advanced technology that transports the colonists from one galaxy to the next and after the the whole process of terraforming nearly every colony reverts back to the fairly basic technologies of the Nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I don’t suppose that with a planet in a wild and freshly formed state it’s any great surprise that the only way to explore it is from the air or on foot. However because of the initial limits on available fuel in the early days of any colony most of the early surveying flights are conducted by airship. The first flights are sometimes conducted by shuttle, but without runways the fuel used in VTOL has to be limited in case of emergency.

I flew airships on Beta Four. Naturally I didn’t tell them that my experience dated from the end of the Nineteenth Century but that early experience stood me in good stead. I was fortunate to be travelling in Europe as the guest of Ferdinand von Zeppelin whom I had first met at the battle of Fredericksburg when we endeavoured to use a balloon to supply aerial intelligence. After the Civil War we went our separate ways Ferdinand returned to Germany and a military career while I pursued my explorations of the American West.

We maintained a correspondence and he seemed particularly interested in my attempts to map the Rocky Mountains from a balloon. In the end the weather conditions rendered my efforts less successful than I had hoped, however Ferdinand was interested enough to remember me. In the Eighteen Nineties I was surprised to receive a letter from him – how the letter managed to find me in Wyoming where I was trying my hand at cattle ranching, I don’t know. The letter was all the excuse I needed to board a train back east and head to Prussia to see Von Zeppelin’s new dirigibles.

After the struggles I had had with hot air balloons in the Rockies, Zeppelin’s dirigibles were a revelation. Of course it took some time for him to get his ideas into the air so to speak. We were very excited in Nineteen Hundred to be able to demonstrate a working prototype, it wasn’t until several years later that the ships became a success. In the meantime I continued to learn from Ferdinand and his team and when the Zeppelins went into passenger service I secured employment with the airline DELAG as an engineer. I have to admit that I was involved in the London air raids during the Great War, but back then Germany was my home and would have remained so were it not for the rise of the Nazi party and more importantly – to me at least – the wreck of the Hindenburg. It was obviously the end of the line for airships and as I recovered from my burns in New Jersey I decided it was time to move on. I left behind in Frankfurt Am Main my wife and son. I know that might seem callous, but after so many centuries I was used to leaving people and better to leave than watch them die.

The Hindenburg may have set back the development of the airship, but non inflammable gasses in the Twenty first century and an increased demand for leisure and luxury ballooning restarted development. However it was the demand for a low fuel cost air transport and the discovery of Zeppelinium on Beta One that really accelerated progress.


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