I was at Lakehurst and heading to the boarding tower for the ElectroZeppelin Overcompensate when I stepped on her foot. Before I could apologise – before I even realised what I had done – she turned on me, her face red.
“Say, what’s the big idea, Mac?” she said.
“I’m sorry, ma’am—”
“Why, ya big palooka, if you can’t look where you’re goin’…”
“Goodness me!” I said. “If it isn’t Mindy Perkins, girl reporter from the Daily Paper.”
“Commander Pelham,” she sneered. “Boy pain-in-the-ass. You in charge of this sky-jalopy?”
“First Officer,” I said. “Don’t tell me you’re the reporter they sent for the maiden voyage?”
Mindy pulled herself up to her full height – which unfortunately still only made her five foot four. “That’s right, ya big ape. And why shouldn’t I be?”
“Mostly, your hair,” I said. I took off my cap to show my crewcut. “Remember when I used to have longer hair? Well, that was before they put me on an ElectroZeppelin. You do understand how ElectroZeppelins work, right?”
“Of course, I’ve spent hours reading the schema—”
“An ElectroZeppelin,” I mansplained inturruptingly, “is a rigid airship, just like a Zeppelin. Only instead of containing hydrogen, it contains a van der Graff generator.”
“So not much like a Zeppelin at all.”
“No, not really. Looks kind of the same.”
“The van der Graf generator creates a powerful electric field,” I continued, “which motion gravity something repulsion poles something… and that’s how it flies!”
“I don’t think you explained that very well.”
“Yeah, I did,” I said. “Anyway, the important point is, there’s a lot of electricity on board, and it makes your hair stand on end. Might not be so great for a lady’s hairdo, kiddo.”
“If I shot you now, no jury would…”
“No guns!” I said. “You might puncture a gas cell and release the hydrogen.”
“But you said…”
“First Officer Pelham!”
I stood to attention. There behind me was Captain Poole, his white moustache bristling.
“Flirt in your own time!” he said. “We have an ElectroZeppelin to fly.”
“Aw, look it’s the Old Sky Dog,” Mindy smirked. “Hope you ain’t plannin’ to go down with your ship, Buster!”
“Oh, it’s you, Miss Perkins,” the Captain smiled. “Glad the Daily Paper sent someone who knows what she’s doing. Carry on!”
He walked up the gangplank into the mighty airship. I held out my elbow to Mindy. She glared at it for a while, then rolled her eye and put her hand on it as we strolled upwards.
“So what angle are you going to take?” I said.
“There’s some concern that the lateral solenoids—”
“I mean, what women’s angle are you going to take?”
She rolled her eyes. “My lady readers would love to know how handsome the officers are.”
“Sorry I’m going to have to disappoint them.”
I turned away from the passengers’ staterooms, headed for the flight deck “Mindy!” I said, shocked she was following me. “This way is the bridge!”
She held up her press pass. ElectroZeppelin Incorporated had clearly allowed her to be on the bridge.
“Fine, I guess,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure this is bad luck.”
When we got to the bridge, I apologised to the Captain. “Sorry, Sir, but she…”
“Jesus, Barry, could you knock it off?” Poole sighed.
“I’m just worried that she’ll readjust the mirror to do her makeup in,” I said. “or maybe start backseat driving!”
“I’m sorry,” the Captain said to Mindy. “He’s… he’s just like this.”
“It does get old, don’t it?”
“Even for 1933, it’s laying it on thick. Give the orders to cast off, Lieutenant.”
I spoke into the speaking tube: “Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!”
Electricity crackled around the outside of the great airship. Slowly we lifted to the sky. I looked back at Mindy, who was writing in her notebook. Her hair hardly moved at all. It was stuck down with… might have been glue or something?
“Solenoid’s holding up, well,” Mindy said.
“See? I told you,” the Captain said.
“All right, I owe you a bottle of schnapps when we get to Berlin. Now, can I take some pictures?”
“Not of the controls, Mindy, but out the window is fine.”
“Don’t forget to take off the lens cover,” I said. “And you need film in the camera to…”
“Barry, could you go check the… uh… the tail fins?” the Captain said. “I need you to go do that.”
So I did. The tail fins were working fine, so it was a bit of a waste of time. But better safe than sorry, I think!. We were out over the Atlantic Ocean by then, making the crossing in record time. By the third time the Captain sent me all the way to the rear of the airship, we were over France and heading towards Germany.
“What do you make of this new guy in Berlin?” the Captain asked Mindy as I returned to the bridge.
“Buster, I know bad news when I sees it,” Mindy said.
“Spiffy uniform, though,” I said. “Real shiny boots, and I mean real shiny.”
“Great,” the Captain sighed. “Have you checked the tail…”
“Well how about the landing generator?”
It took me nearly an hour to get the landing gear. This was the special backup unit to keep us levitating when the ship was standing still. I gave it a test spin, but found it wasn’t working!
“Lucky the Captain sent me to check,” I said to myself.
It didn’t take long to find out why. There was a tightly rolled copy of the Daily Paper crammed into the starter motor. I pulled it out, but the paper shredded as it came free, filling the starter with confetti.
“Only one way to fix it,” I said, “and that’s to clean it with a wire brush!”
Now, I probably should have contacted the bridge to let them know that was what I was doing. Okay, not probably. Definitely. You know, so they knew the motor was out of action. So, I really have to take the blame for the nose of the ship falling to smash into the viewing platform. I killed the Chancellor and all those other guys in the sweet uniforms. Real shame, I guess. Yeah, I know some people say it’s Mindy’s fault for jamming the paper in there in the first place, but come on! She’s just a girl.
She probably thought that’s where used newspapers are supposed to go.