First, I must appologize for my absence, and duly so! It has been entirely too long since I've posted a letter to you, Anxious Reader. I'm afraid I've been away on an extended to trip to The Antipodes, on the HMEAS Hermes Trisgmegistus. It was a terribly arduous voyage. We sailed in from the north, and finally made dock at a small colonial tower on the coast of New Zealand. It was rather uneventful except for a few native uprisings, and a problem with one of our gasbags (it turned out he had just eaten too many lentils).
We left just as the rainy season was about to begin, and headed north, away from the gathering storm. The cloud cover was horribly thick, with visibilities of only around 100 feet. With an airship of 763 feet, you can imagine that this was an untenable situation. We dropped down below the cloud deck, to about 300 feet altitude. We found ourselves soaring in between vast mountains, rising sheer on either side.
Realizing this was not the most defensible position to be in, and knowing the proclivity for pirates to harbour in these craggy heights, I asked the shipmaster to sound the call to man the weaponry. Fortunately, that order was passed down not a moment too soon! For at that very moment, we were ambushed my a fleet of Skypirates, who came screaming out of the clouds like fallen angels. The fell on us from above, thinking that's where we would be weakest. Fortunately, since Hermes Trismegistusspends most of her time either moored or very low to the ground, it's most heavily armed and armoured on top! The crew leapt into action. My favorite weapons are our tesla rail cannons, which I developed. Using a combination between Dynamos and Argon gas, a thick stream of pure plasma is discharged at great voltage a velocity.
This was used to the greatest advantage, and quickly thinned those enemies above us. Unfortunately, the distraction provided by the little annoyances above us provided just enough time for a small missile battery, previously concealed in the dense foliage below, to fire two rockets straight into the belly of Hermes, and punctured two of the lift cells in the right nacelle.
Pandemonium ensued. Immediately we took out the battery with White Phosphorous Bombs, and began to ascend as rapidly as possible, to avoid either detection and further attack. We broke through the cloud level like a submarine surfacing, with the setting sun shining across the clouds like jeweled fire. As if in response to this show, Hermeswas in flames.
The lower decks, which included many crew cabins, as well as the cargo hold. The entire ship was listing heavily to starboard, as the right envelope had been severely compromised. The emergency crew reacted with a speed only a member of the Queen's Marines could, but the battle between man and flame was severe.
In the end, the fires were finally extinguished, though not before a great deal of damage was done, and lives were lost. 37 souls were lost in that dreadful occurrence, and the entirety of the cargo deck, which contained everything we'd gathered from that expedition, was lost. The artifacts were almost entirely of natural fibres and such, and thus went up like smoke. I myself had been wounded, with a bullet passing clean through my thigh, and a piece of shrapnel catching me just below my left eye. I'm quite fortunate that I still have my sight!
We managed to limp across the ocean to a well established colony on Australia, where Hermesis being repaired. Medical facilities were not up to par there, so I took an Express Zeppelin bound for Ceylon, and am convalescing there. I should be out of bed soon, and the Physic assures me I'll retain full use of my leg once I'm recovered. I plan on attempting to take a turn around the garden tomorrow, I hear the tea crop here is magnificent! I keep reminding myself that I came away from the encounter lightly, as there are so man men who lost limbs and eyes, or were otherwise incapacitated. Not to mention the 37 men and women who will never go home to their families. I've posted a letter to Her Royal Majesty, requesting that she confer on the honoured dead the Victoria Cross for their valour and bravery in service to Queen and Science in the face of skypiracy. I do so hope she'll agree. In the meantime, I'll be recovering here, and shall post another letter to you as soon as I've made my way back home.
Prof. J. Odderwall Costom