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Dinner With The Baron: Part 1 – The Arrival

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Shouting a string of unintelligible curses, I flailed about swinging wildly and looking for my pistol. Anna, having just come up from having her key auto-wound to tend the bar and carrying a small crate under her arm, arched a curious eyebrow at the action. Despite being hundreds of meters above ground, the Charity Way, my pride and joy and one of the most impressive airships in all the Steamlands (if I do say so myself) had become infested with fruit flies. I make a point to keep as clean an establishment as possible, hence the reason I took on an advanced clank as a maid, but something had obviously hitched a ride with a shipment from the surface. Tensai, the madgirl co-leader of Steelhead, had suggested a micro-electric death ray, Anna suggested gassing the entire ship, and Genie, my hostess, had suggested magic. I chose the far less dangerous and costly method of hanging sticky ribbons from the ceiling until the offending produce could be thrown away and all possible breeding sources eliminated, but while their numbers were now under control, I was still harassed on a regular basic by the infuriating creatures.
I sighed and holstered my pistol. The fruit flies were just a convenient target of my frustrations. The real source of my stress was the upcoming dinner at Castle Wulfenbach, hosted by Baron Klaus Wulfenbach himself. I was worst type of commoner imaginable to the upper-class, an excommunicated priest. The church was a place where even the most wretched could find hope, and when it turned its back upon someone, it was seen as a sign that they were worse than hopeless, but abandoned even by God. The more educated knew the truth, that it is man, not God, that has trouble forgiving and the church has every bit the political corruption and machinations as any state, but even they know better than to get on the bad side of the church’s leadership.

Steelhead was different. In a way we are all outcasts in some fashion. Our mayors are an elf and a madgirl, our sheriff a lycanthrope, our ambassador a neko, our letter-carrier a clockwork, a club owner that’s a fairy, and a floating bar-captain that was a…

*CLAP!*

I flicked the dead fruit-fly off of my palm with a satisfied smirk. The were devilishly difficult to hit, but over the last few days of clapping them between my hands with increasing success, I felt my old reflexes, somewhat rusty from the years of peaceful living, slowly return. I still trained regularly with my pistol, but I’ve been wondering if quiet living has not dulled my edge. I’ve seen what things lie outside the quiet borders of Steelhead, and I dare not relax my…

*CLAP!*

“HA! Little bastard.”

“Very impressive, mistress, but how does one know of the fly’s genealogy, if this one might ask?”, Anna said dryly.

I looked evenly at the maid, wondering if I detected sarcasm in the feminine monotone or if she was serious. Of all the things she could learn from Genie, I thought to myself. Standing up from the typescriber, I stretched and told Anna out of habit to watch the bar while I was gone, despite knowing she would anyway. It was one of the default tasks which she administered to with mechanical efficiency.

“Her”, I thought to myself. She doesn’t even refer to herself in such human terms, so why did I? Would I so easily anthropomorphize a clank if it looked like a metal box with spider-legs, instead of a dark-haired, softly curved feminine beauty of a humanoid whose only giveaways were glowing blue eyes and an ever-rotating key in her back?

*CLAP*

I sighed and flicked another of the pests off of my hand, and decided now would be a good time to get ready.

“This one has come to inform mistress that a package has arrived for her. Does she wish this one open it for her?”

“No, I’ll get to it later. For now just hide it behind the bar.”

“Yes, mistress”

Opening a different box I’d brought out from storage, I took out the contents and smiled. I’d had the black, gold-embroidered suit for a while, but having saved it for a special occasion I only just now unpacked it. It fit well, despite some snugness around the chest and middle, and I considered wearing less underneath, but decided that if The Baron’s ship was anything like mine, it could be a bit on the chilly side. Genie would be coming with Fuzzball, so taking my goggles and helmet in hand, I threw a heavy coat on and proceeded to the hanger bay to make the journey in my own little gyrocopter. I stared ruefully at the faster fighter plane, a gift from Thad and the Steelhead air force, and sighed. It had only just finished being repaired after my last attempt to fly it, and I was not confident enough in my skill to try again so soon in a machine I was not more familiar with.

The journey to Wulfenbach Europa, or at least the little part of it the Baron had made in this world, was as uneventful as it was cold. The gyrocopter, being little more than a bare chassis with a seat and steering wheel, was unsurprisingly fuel efficient for long journeys if one didn’t mind exposure to the freezing cold of not only the wind but the severe downdraft of the propellers. Coming to a hover over the landing area, something many in the Steamlands were still not used to, I landed my craft with only a slight bounce and rattle, and disembarked. Frau Annechen Lowey, the Baron’s personal attendant and most trusted adviser in this world, had come to greet me with her usual warm, matronly smile, betraying no hint of scorn or amusement that the sight of my ridiculously tall frame clambering out of that locust-like contraption must have been. I passed the helmet and coat to an attending footman and made my way to the greeting area where other guests were just beginning to arrive.

I was fully prepared to turn over my concealed pistol and bayonet to security, but no search was made. A part of me was relieved at being allowed to keep my personal protection, but another was unnerved as well. Was the Baron so secure in his and his peoples’ abilities that he did not fear a potential assassin, even when they might be sitting next to him? I knew the Heterodyne stories had exaggerated certain aspects of him to ridiculous degrees, but surely he was not bulletproof. I shrugged. Were I the same impetuous youth I once was I’d have had a serious talk with Capt. Stereo Nacht, my own former fencing instructor, about this, but I decided to trust in the Baron’s security. If it really came down to it, after all, there are places a would-be killer could hide a weapon where no visiting dignitary would ever be searched without international incident, and it was probably decided that it was better for everyone to be armed than only an aggressor. It was a remarkably American attitude, if I may say, though a precarious one.

I recognized Wayland Brear immediately, and my heart warmed at the memories of the times we had spent together. Although he has been called away more and more as of late, I held hope of us meeting privately after the dance. He was the only man that had ever found his way into my heart, and the most gentle soul I have ever known. The first of his kind I’d ever met, with elf-like ears and stature, but soft, bronze-colored wings¬† adorning his back. A woman new to the Steamlands, Lynn Mimistrobell had arrived soon after, and like the first time we’d seen each-other, I was stricken by her beauty and grace. She was an actor, officially, though there was talk of other activities she was engaged in. I attributed it to jealous gossip, though, as she seemed far too well read and intelligent for what people accused her. Off in the corner Poppy, whom I had recognized from one of my own dances, was speaking to a man with slicked-back hair in a tuxedo I’d never seen before, and I was about to introduce myself when Genie greeted me with a hug that threatened to consume me. Genie was the first woman I’d met even larger in stature than myself, yet carried herself with the grace of a pixie and had a warmth and friendliness that made her an obvious choice for host and lead dancer at my bar.

“Sick?! That’s terrible!”, I replied, upon hearing that her new husband, and Steelhead’s own sheriff, was in bed incapacitated by, of all things, his own bowels. I wondered with some incredulity what a werewolf could have possibly eaten to make him so ill, but the doctors were sure he’d be fine. Since Lunar and Tensai had been called away on urgent matters, he insisted that his new wife go and represent Steelhead alongside of me, likely to smooth things over if I ended up hurting someone (which like the Baron’s exploits has been greatly exaggerated, if I may say).

Annechen asked if there was anything she could get me, and I wryly asked if the Baron kept any extra insect repellant I could take back on the return trip, which elicited a guttural cry of, “NO BOGZ!” from a passing jagermonster. I smiled a bit uncomfortably and said that I was fine.

After the introductions were out of the way and late-comers had caught up, we took our seats. Unusual for such an event, there was no assigned seating, and guests were allowed to find their own place, with the Baron and Annechen at the head and foot of the table respectively. I pulled a chair out for the actress while Way pulled one out for myself, and we sat down at the baron’s side as the food was brought out. The Baron and one of the other guests had been going on about some new research into a disease discovered recently. I tried my best to block out the unappetizing conversation, and focused on the crab that stubbornly denied my attempts to eat it. I quietly slipped the bayonet out from my sleeve and pried the shell open, as Lynn looked on appalled at manners seemingly learned on a battlefield. The Baron, no stranger himself to such schooling, simply smiled and continued the discussion, relating how there had been difficulties in preventing contamination.

The subject of containing and preventing the spread of contagion was something I actually had experience in (having done certain relief and rescue work with he church) and it actually caught my attention, and as I was about to relate to the Baron my own experience in such matters along with my offer to assist him, the bomb exploded.

Mission Statement (or, “Why I Made This Blog”)

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For a long time I’ve wanted to make a blog about some of the OOC business in SL. People I care about, places I’ve visited, and things I’ve tried and things I’ve built, and most of all my dear friends, Lynn, Way, Tensai, Sid, Scar, and all the people of Steelhead and the Steamlands.

Another major reason is that as an avid SL combatant I have yet to see any reliable sources of information or reviews on all the shiny guns and swords in SL. Some of these are damn expensive and some of them are damn useless, and someone needs to protect the 2nd Amendment fans of SL from making a bad buy. Using a barrage of tests and resources, I think I can help with this. Whether you want a high-performance tool to assault an Alliance Navy base, or just something pretty for RP purposes, I will do my best to help you make an informed choice, after all, you can’t rely on the gun-makers to tell you their products shortcomings, can you?

Stay tuned!