WWI steampunk airship Ghostbusters. Seriously, there’s nothing more we need to say to introduce this story.
by Amy Griswold
1918, over Portsmouth
The souls in the trap writhed and keened their displeasure as Xavier picked up the shattergun. “Don’t fuss,” he scolded them as he turned on the weapon and adjusted his goggles, shifting the earpieces so that the souls’ racket penetrated less piercingly through the bones behind his ears. “It’s nothing to do with you.”
The two airships were docked already, a woman airman unfastening safety ropes from the gangplank propped between them to allow Xavier to cross. The trap rocked with a vibration that owed nothing to the swaying airships, and Xavier lifted it and tucked it firmly under his arm. He felt the soul imprisoned in his own chest stir, a straining reaction that made him stop for a moment to catch his breath.
“If you’re ready, sir,” the airman said, and Xavier forced himself into motion. He nodded crisply and strode out onto the gangplank with the ease of long years spent aboard ships, his gloved hand just brushing the rail. He scrambled down from the other end and got out of the way of airmen rushing to disengage the gangplank and close the hatch before the two ships could batter at each other too dangerously in the rising wind.
The Coriolanus’s captain strode toward him, and Xavier winced as he recognized a familiar face. He set the trap down, both to get it farther away from the casing that housed the soul in his chest, and to give himself a moment to banish all envy from his expression.
He straightened with a smile. “Hedrick. I see you landed on your feet after that muddle over Calais.”
“I’ve got a knee that tells me the weather now,” Hedrick said, scrubbing at his not-entirely-regulation stubble of ginger beard. “They told me you’d been grounded.”
“I’m still attached to the extraction service,” Xavier said. “As a civilian now.”
Hedrick’s eyes flickered to the odd lines of Xavier’s coat front, and then back up to his face without a change of expression. He’d always been good at keeping a straight face at cards. “We could use the help. We had a knock-down drag-out with the Huns a few weeks back—just shy of six weeks, I make it. Heavy casualties on both sides, and some of them damned reluctant to move on.”
“Only six weeks? You hardly need me. Chances are they’ll still depart on their own.”
“You haven’t seen the latest orders that came down, then. We’re supposed to call in the ratcatchers at the first sight of ghosts. Not acceptable on a well-run ship, don’t you know.”